The exhibit’s name suits it well: “Being Alive — The Photography of Lloyd Ziff.”

The photos show family and friends, and natural scenes. Black-and-whites — moments from the last 40-plus years. They hang through Dec. 1 in the library gallery on the Haverhill campus of Northern Essex Community College.

The scenes include one of lions, camouflaged under trees at the edge of a clearing in Tanzania. A guide had pointed them out to Ziff. 

You have to look closely. Then they reveal themselves in the lower left, a pride at rest.

Some friends in the other pictures are famous, but the photos don’t show them as celebrities.

There’s a lovely, natural-looking photo of a pregnant lady in the distance on the water. She’s standing on a square float — one of those floating docks in the middle of a pond, with a rounded ladder for climbing aboard.

The woman is famous photographer Annie Leibovitz. She was around 50 years old at the time, and her posture shows her to be happy, glad to be with child.

There’s another photo from much earlier, the 1960s, of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. They would both go on to become famous artists. In the photo, they don’t look like stars or ambitious. They look innocent and maybe unsophisticated, peering into an uncertain future.

To the left, a whole wall makes a photo album. The pictures show a father and his son, taken over a series of years at the same place. The father is Ziff’s husband. The photos are playful and loving.

Ziff’s mom, thin and in her 90s, stares vacantly in another photo. Like the others, it has staying power, and is easy to recall. But unlike the others, it is sad, and remains that way.

On the back wall, the same one where the lions lounge in the shade, are two young people diving off the opposite sides of a square float.

They are mirror images of each other. Their bodies stretch into their dives, angling to the water. It amuses; a funny shot.

You wonder, did Ziff just happened to catch them by chance at this moment? You wonder, did they hit the water in the same way at the same time?

For decades, Ziff took photos for his own enjoyment, showing them only to friends.

A change came in 1999 after he had a heart attack and reconsidered his life, he said in an interview at the photo exhibit’s opening reception earlier this month.

Ziff’s father died at 46.

Ziff decided to leave his secure job as a magazine art director for publications including Rolling Stone, Condé Nast Traveler, House & Garden, and Vanity Fair. He made photography his profession.

“It was time for me to take my pictures from under my bed and get them out in the world,” he said. “I had good connections, and people gave me work and introductions to galleries and shows in New York and LA.” 

Ziff is an easygoing and gracious fellow. At his reception, he took the visitors, including a number of students, on a tour of the photo exhibit. He spoke about the pictures and answered lots of questions.

The curator of the show is Marc Mannheimer, an art teacher at Northern Essex. Mannheimer and Ziff were students themselves 50 years ago at Pratt Institute in New York City. So was Mapplethorpe.

Mannheimer and Ziff reconnected at a recent college reunion, and Mannheimer invited him to show his work at NECC.

Ziff has taken lots of pictures in 50 years of photography. The ones on display are framed photos from his life’s work.

Ziff also spoke in Mannheimer’s classes, telling the students about his work and how he did it.

Among the students at the photo reception was Mallory Manning, a liberal arts major, who is taking an introduction to photography class.

She and others looked closely at the shots. The students fired away with questions. Art student Ariana Caraballo had a question about the Smith and Mapplethorpe photo. Were they posing or were they off guard?

They weren’t posing, and they weren’t entirely off guard, either. They knew Ziff, a friend, and that he was there to take pictures, he said.

Ziff takes lots of pictures. 

One lesson he learned from Leibovitz was in watching how hard she works. Ziff has to counter his inclination to be easily satisfied. Taking, say, only 10 photos of a scene. 

Why not take 200? he said.


What: “Being Alive — The Photography of Lloyd Ziff”

Where: Linda Hummel-Shea ArtSpace, Bentley Library, Northern Essex Community College, 100 Elliot St., Haverhill

When: Through Dec. 1. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 7:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: Free

More information: 978-556-3401