Hank O'Neal's Biography Continued
Walker Evans added another point, when he told O’Neal, "It doesn’t count unless you find it yourself." He paid attention to all three of these fine artists and for the next four decades followed their advice, accumulating a large body of work in the process. O’Neal has constantly discovered subjects he feels to be visually astonishing, and has integrated them into various projects. Except for those photographs taken for a specific assignment or publication, until his major one-man show at The Witkin Gallery, he elected to keep most of his work private. Since the Witkin retrospective, he has shown and published his work with increasing regularity.
Many of O’Neal’s photographs are often work-related, portraits for LP jackets and CD booklets, documenting recording sessions, illustrating books or producing booklets for his music festivals. Since 1971, he has produced over 200 LPs or CDs for his companies, Chiaroscuro Records and Hammond Music Enterprises. Since 1983, he and his partner, Shelley Shier have produced over one hundred music festivals, through their New York City-based production company, HOSS, Inc.
Along the way, O’Neal has also published a number of books and monographs, including the now classic work on the Farm Security Administration, A Vision Shared – A Portrait of America and Its People 1935 – 1943 and the landmark study of his friend, Berenice Abbott – American Photographer. His own photographs appeared in a variety of books and publications, the award-winning book, The Ghosts of Harlem in 1997, to be reissued in 2008), Hank O’Neal Portraits 1971 – 2000, and in 2006, Gay Day – The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade. One of his more unusual accomplishments was producing a series of photographs that accompanied a special Limited Editions Club edition of Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men. A special portfolio of these gravure prints was issued along with the book.
O’Neal has produced a wide ranging body of work, portraits of friends and associates, ironic images fromany parts of the world, and continually added to projects that have lasted two or three decades. Examples of his work may be seen in the photo section of hankoneal.com. The many illustrated books can be seen in the book section of hankoneal.com.
In addition to the musical and photographic interests, O’Neal’s other activities are as varied as the subject matter of his photographs. He received a BA from Syracuse University in 1962, and was well on his way to an MA, when, in 1963, he was snared by the Central Intelligence Agency, with whom he was associated until 1976. While he was with this organization, he also served on active duty in the US Army, rising to the rank of Captain.
O’Neal came to New York City from Washington, D.C. in 1967 and still resides in Greenwich Village. He joined the faculty of The New School University in 1970 and remains affiliated with that school as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program. For the decade of the 1970s, he was associated with the modern dance company, Choreographer’s Theater, for whom he not only created sound and visual collages, but also, on occasion, danced. In the same decade, he built and operated two recording studios in Greenwich Village. During the years 1983 through 1995, he was an advisor to the Justice Department and is currently on the Board of Directors of various arts organizations, galleries and corporations, most prominently the Jazz Foundation of America/Jazz Musician’s Emergency Fund, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and The Jazz Gallery.