There’s an old proverb that says the eyes are the window of the soul. And if that is indeed the case, there’s no argument … Syd Greenberg was the soul of New Canaan.
in a unique and special way for more than a half century. His style was so unmistakable that even as a kid, I could always distinguish his shots in the Advertiser from those of the other photographers before I even read the credit. His gift from God became his gift to us…and it’s a gift this town should never take for granted.
One of my biggest thrills was when I recently came over to Bev and Syd’s with a DVD from work. The show was The March of Time, and this particular segment focused on the China Burma India theatre of WWII. I was writing a Veteran’s Day profile last year for the New Canaan Patch and Syd was generous enough to share his experiences as a photographer in the U.S. Army Signal Corp. HBO never did a mini-series on the CBI, and with the possible exception of an old Errol Flynn movie Objective, Burma!, it doesn’t get its due recognition in pop culture or the annals of history. But as I learned, the mission Syd fulfilled while embedded with the Chinese Nationalist Army was no less important or dangerous than that of his counterparts in the Pacific or Europe. I can’t describe the feeling I had watching this program with someone who was actually there. It was truly an honor being in the same room as the man. And I still maintain that his photo of a supply airdrop is just as powerful as anything by Joe Rosenthal or Ernie Pyle.
But maybe I’m just biased, because Syd Greenberg meant more to me than a veteran or a photographer. There were many reasons why I came back to New Canaan after college and several years living in New York and Boston, but one of the biggest reasons was because of Bev and Syd. They have been like surrogate grandparents to me my whole life, as I grew up right across the street from them. During the years I was out of town, they were always the first stop (well, maybe the second, after a burger and beer at ) when I’d come back through New Canaan. Bev and I would reminisce about Center School, and the old neighborhood. She’d fill me in on all my former teachers, and everything that was going on in town. Syd would bust my chops about my haircut or the fact that I was still single, and then he’d ask me about my work. He was always interested in what I was doing and encouraged me to keep at it.
Syd and I had a running joke where I’d ask him how many years he’s been taking pictures of me. He’d counter by asking me how old I was, then he’d add one year onto my response and that was his accurate answer. I still have an old 8x10 he took of my mom who was then pregnant with me. And I have another Greenberg 8x10 of my family which included my grandmother. Right up until his car accident this past fall, Syd was taking photos of my kids when we’d come to visit. It’s not every day you found a photographer who has taken pictures of four generations of one family.
And now comes the heartbreaking news that . I can barely type the words. I’ve lost a hero and a friend. New Canaan has lost an icon. We should all mourn Syd’s passing. Please join me in keeping Beverly, David, Philip and the entire Greenberg family in our thoughts and prayers.