VICTOR SKREBNESKI, a Chicago based, and world renown photographer passed away recently at the age of 90. He was known for shooting photos of well known celebrities, up and coming ones, and creating fashion advertising for Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Marshall Fields and Saks Fifth Avenue. Those he captured in his lens include; Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Raquel Welch, Vanessa Redgrave and Iman with David Bowie. Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Beals were among those he helped discover. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Skrebneski in June of 2018. He agreed to a photo of us together which I have omitted since his eyes were closed, and he was such a gentleman he allowed me to keep it! Here is an excerpt of what Victor had to say about Growing Older With Gusto! His words seem even more valuable today.
GZ: What would you tell someone at mid-life who wants to know how to grow older without fear?
VS: Most of the people I speak with are in their 20’s and are at Columbia College or the Art Institute here in Chicago. These kids don’t ask questions. I tell them, “I can’t tell you anything, because you know it all. So, you have to ask me questions – I will listen. One young woman asked me how I liked how she dresses. The first thing I told her was to get the ring out of her nose. I know it’s cool, but it’s not.
GZ: What did you do along the way to stay vital at 88?
VS: You work and right now I’m finishing my 16th book. It’s the biography of my life through my photos. It’s really hard work. There are really old photos I’ve never seen. I am juxtaposing old ones and new ones. I found ones taken with my sister in Cuba in 1948!. I started the book with the photos from Cuba. This is a book for students.
GZ: What has given you the greatest strength as you’ve gone through your life so far?
VS: I never think about it. I do what I want to do. I do things right away. I have time to do it so I just do it.
GZ: What has given you the greatest pleasure that is ongoing?
VZ: Work! Friends. Dinner with friends. Joey Mondelli has a restaurant(Kelli Mondelli) near a bar where I have taken photos. It’s smoky. I spent several years taking photos there without anyone knowing it. Everything there is photographical. The people and the place make it so. Everyone is relaxed and having a good time. Joey is great. It’s full of photos of people who have been there through the years. Joey has been a friend for over 40 years. He loves his work, too.
GZ: Any favorite sayings or philosophy’s on life?
VS: I don’t think about the past. I only think about the future. My future is working. I listen to people who want to reminisce because people who want to reminisce want to talk. I wake up on the morning and am so happy that I can wake up in the morning! The rest of the day is wonderful. People often ask me what my greatest achievement has been in my life and I say, “That I’m still alive.”
GZ: If I gave you a magical pill tonight and you awakened tomorrow at age 58 is there anything you may’ve done differently?
VS: I’d go back to sleep! I used to be very serious and then I told myself to stop being so serious. I really started to enjoy my life more. People used to say how wonderful my work was or criticize it. It’s all talk. So, it was wonderful to realize you don’t have to be so serious in life.
GZ: What has been most inspirational to you throughout your life and even today?
VS: People! One of the most inspirational people I ever met was Hubert de Givenchy.(The French fashion designer who founded the House of Givenchy in 1952). He was my best friend. He just left us about three weeks ago. I was inspired from the moment I met him.
GZ: So, Victor — what’s your secret to living a joyful a joyful and juicy life?
VS: Don’t think about it. It’s only life. You may not wake up someday. Enjoy every moment. People don’t do that today. They complain a lot. The two of us sitting here talking — it’s a lot of fun.