Staff Photographer Lane Stewart lives in a Manhattan apartment with his wife, Anna, and, among other things, an 80-pound terra-cotta turkey, an ancient printing press, a two-foot whalebone walrus, three falcon perches from Bahrein, assorted busts, highly polished antique swords and papier-m‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¢chè apples, four-foot elk antlers, more than 100 antique ice-cream scoops and 222 prints, posters, photographs and paintings. Amid these mementos of his travels, Stewart pursues his hobby—painting his two- and three-inch lead soldiers, not neglecting minuscule eyebrows and microscopic rainbows of medals on their chests. A superb photographer with that passion for detail was clearly the man to set up, as well as shoot, the pictures for a special act in this, our annual pro basketball issue.
We knew that the pros were currently influenced by the college game; that was our theme. To get the pictures accompanying Bruce Newman's story, The NBA Goes Back to School (page 38), Stewart built the classroom.
The team we chose was the Los Angeles Lakers, who are situated conveniently near movie-prop outlets where Stewart could rent portraits of Washington and Lincoln, a radiator and a light switch. However, it took him two days to ferret out desks, lunch pails, a radiator pipe, a clock, a door with a transom, a flag and pole, a globe and a pair of half-glasses.
To make the blackboards, Stewart painted panels of masonite with ultra-flat black paint. Then, aided by L.A. photographer John Krawczyk, a longtime friend and "master at doing things," he spent two more days buying lumber and building two walls and a floor. (Stewart would have settled for a real vintage classroom, but there was none in the vicinity and the Lakers wouldn't travel.) Day Five, from 10 in the morning to 1 a.m. on Day Six, was spent loading floor, walls and props into a truck and assembling them in the ballroom of a hotel. Everything installed, he polished the desks and, to make the classroom look old, sprayed the walls with off-white paint, rubbed powdered yellow chalk into the corners and dusted the floor with powdered walnut shells.
November 9, 1981
At 7:30 a.m. on Day Six, Stewart bought apples—Red Delicious for the players' desks, "large, high-shouldered, slim-waisted apples," as he says, "to really stand out," and a Rome Beauty for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to give Teacher-Coach Paul Westhead, "smaller and rounder, easier to hold, the brightest red apple I could find."
The Lakers arrived at 11:45, Stewart took the picture and by 12:20 the job was finished. Nothing to it.