by Zale Parry
Photographers we were.
Underwater photographers we wanted to be.
It was discouraging to tell your best diving stories and no one believed
you. “Oh sure, what a yarn of wool,” people would say.
Topside photographers already had their own
handmade Plexiglas or metal waterproof camera housings by the turn of the 1950 era. To name a few, they were Lamar Boren,
Mart Toggweiler, Parry Bivens, Homer Lockwood, Rory Page, Chuck Blakeslee, Jim Auxier, Dr. Nelson “Doc” Mathison
and so many more divers.
By 1954, Zale Parry was waiting for the delivery of her Rolleimarin. She ordered it with
the winnings she earned on Groucho Marx's TV show, “You Bet Your Life”. What a thrill to finally take a camera
underwater! The order included a Rolleiflex camera with a 3.5 lens since her Ciroflex 2.8 lens (similar to Rolleiflex) didn’t
fit that miracle Rolleimarin housing. However, color was expensive. So be it...black and white film with twelve exposures
to a roll was the way to go. Ah, bring back the sights! By 1955, Al Tillamook had Earl Shugarman, Executive Field Service
Manager with Sportsways, Inc., design and manufacture a Plexiglas housing for his 16mm electric eye movie camera ready to
With a coterie of acquaintances, many by this short time, having homemade camera housings and lights to add
to their diving gear, it was time for a gathering. Al Tillman, Earl Shugarman and Zale Parry met to propose a club so that
everyone interested could get their underwater pictures out of shoe boxes and dresser drawers to share underwater treasured
stuff and experiences. It would be a show-and-tell sort of club. Later a healthy, educational competition ensued.
By way of an announcement, calling a gathering of all underwater photographers of the Los Angeles area, in the August 1957
issue of Skin diver Magazine, The Underwater Photographic Society gave birth to its first chapter in Los Angeles with a meeting
in September 1957.
We met in a Los Angeles Parks and Recreation facility or a member’s home once a month.
Later, member Ed Nelson generously offered a meeting room at the Union ice House in downtown Los Angeles where we met regularly.
Zale put the newsletter together for a number of years. Postage was a mere pittance then to send a one page goodie letter.
The response was wonderful.
The first gathering had good attendance, eager enthusiastic members who inspired each
other with housing, photos and angles of lights. It was all fun. Al Tillman was the “write man,” “the idea
guy” and “the leader”. Together we had been through numerous diving experiences and events. Most often we’d
meet at Zale’s house, which was filled with diving memorabilia and medical books from husband Parry’s studies
to become a doctor, to brainstorm the new club’s thoughts and directions. Boat trips were scheduled thoughtout the year.
The gathered members were mutually happy underwater wanderers and photographers.
Several sample designs were
submitted by artistic club members for the Underwater Photographic Society logo. Again, we were at Zale’s house at the
kitchen table. Norman Robinson remembers cutting fish shapes out of construction paper to make a design. Bob Figueroa’s
creation was chosen. It’s a beauty that says our name with clarity and simplicity. It is still used today...the camera
with the fishes; the colors are blue, red and black. The word UNDERWATER is inscribed on the forehead of the camera. The words
PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY ride the lower circle of the patch-design. One fish appears at ten o’clock heading toward the east;
one fish at nine o’clock heading toward the west; the last fish is at six o’clock swimming east. Impressive!
The Society’s first big flash happened very fortunately in December 1957 with a great staff of workers. It was
a big undertaking for such a fledgling group to put on a film festival. It was not just an ordinary show-and-tell festival
but one that mimicked the extravaganza of Cannes or Venice festivals with our venue of underwater photography. Fortunately,
we had the backing of Skin Diver Magazine and the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Underwater Section. The festival
was put on for some two hundred and fifty people in a West Hollywood Parks and Recreation facility. Al Tilman called it, “...one
step above a neighborhood talent show,” but it inspired new dreams. Few of the organizers and attendees of that first
festival put on by the Underwater Photographic Society felt the hardness of the metal folding chairs or were annoyed by the
neon sign blinking through the torn drapery on the side window. The Society and this festival were happenings that promised
important achievement in the future.
The Society's purposes were: to exchange knowledge and information, to
promote underwater photography, to provide practical group activity, to assist members in purchasing, maintenance and processing
of photography supplies, to offer training experiences, to provide for display, recognition, and evaluation of members'
efforts, to study advanced techniques and equipment.
The Charter Membership of the Society was: Al Tillman, Earl
Shugarman, Zale Parry, Dick Bartlett, Bill Jeffs, Lillian Kemble, Bill Lynn, Virgil Mirano, Gene Waldo, Mike Allen, Walt Nash,
Manuel Noval, Karl Remmen, Ed White, Sandra McCandliss, Mart Toggweiler, Leon Paddock, Arnold Shugarman, Anna Saudek, Dr.
Charles Frankel, Mike Mirano, Ken Tillman, Dick Bartlett Jr., Jim Auxier, Joe Marshall and Ralph Davis. Earl Shugarman was
elected the first President.
By 1958 the membership included: Clare Bishop, Glen Fellion, Mike Fellion, Mel Fisher,
Jim Havens, Homer Lockwood, Dr. William Lynn, Dr. Nelson "Doc" Mathison, Gary Metcalf, Paul McComack, Maynard Muting,
Ted Puekert, Frank Rayle, Fred Roberts, Norman Robinson, H. Ralph Snyder Jr, Peggy Strauch, Ken Taylor, and Babs Jones. "Doc"
Mathison became the second President; then Al Tillman was nominated as the third President, and by 1960 Zale Parry held the
gavel as President.
In 1961 President Norman Robinson took the helm. With his direction the Underwater Photographic
Society conducted its First Annual National Underwater Photographic Exhibitions sponsored by The Underwater Photographic Society,
Los Angeles State College and Skin Diver Magazine.It was held in conjunction with the Fourth International Underwater Film
Festival. Norm Robinson had the position as UPS Historian, too and remains active in that post to the present day.
The Society flourished with film shots, meetings, projects and a special shooting assignment for Life Magazine. Al Tillman
and Zale Parry became co-producers/directors of the Underwater Film Festivals and devoted a great deal of time and energy
to this specific project. It brought prestige and dignity to the Underwater Photographic Society, so much so, that by the
third year the Festival went world-wide as an International event.
The honors for outstanding underwater photography
in 1957 went to: Jack McNeal for his 35MM color transparencies "A Close Look At The Bottom"; Ed White, Roger Hess
and Earl Shugarman as a joint project of an 8MM movie "Browsing Below"; Martin Toggweiller for his 16MM movie "Techniques
Of Skin Diving"; Leon Paddock for his 16MM movie "Wrecks On The Andros Reef"; Mel Fisher for his 16MM movie
"Life In The Sea"; Dr. Nelson Mathison for his 35MM movie "Caribbean Expedition". The Underwater Photographer
Of The Year Award was given to Captain Jacque Yves Cousteau, in absentia, for his numerous contributions including The Silent
For the 1958 venue, the Los Angeles State College was the place for the Underwater Photographic Society's
competitions and review of the outstanding commercial films from ten o'clock in the morning until four o'clock. The
evening's Underwater Film Festival began at seven o'clock with the following special screening of The Trophy Winners
from the competitions. They were Jack McNeal, Dan Ryan, Bob Figueroa, and Courtney Brown (Sea Hunt's Mike Nelson’s
double). Films and slides for the seven o'clock evening production were by Nan and Conrad Limbaugh, Ernest Brooks, Jon
Hall and The Outstanding Underwater Photographer Of The Year Award went to Lamar Boren for his work with Sea Hunt, the television
By 1960, the Festival became more exciting. Dr. Hans Hass flew in from Germany to accept his honor as The
Underwater Photographer Of The Year. Other honorees included Dr. Wheeler North, Dr. Willis Pequegnat, Ron Church, Peter Stackpole
(Life Magazine), Carl Shipek, Don Ollis, and Peter Gimbel. The Competitions were categorized as 'open' for film or
slides and 'novice' for film or slides.
The International Underwater Film Festivals in conjunction with
the Underwater Photographic Society continued for seventeen years. Those gatherings engraved and sealed golden friends forever.
The future continues to remain bright on the horizon for the Underwater Photographic Society with its tremendous growth,
new chapters and fascinating underwater discoveries. It's the era of underwater photographers with new innovations of
camera, film, video and ever changing mega-pixeled digital photographic techniques. They travel around the planet to exotic
critter sites, some still unreachable, unknown, ready to be uncovered. After all, the birthing days are over. We're all
polished with the latest, high performance underwater equipment and celebrating the Underwater Photographic Society's
forty-seventh year. Bless underwater photography. It gave us credibility, praise and applause!