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Pulled from his Colorado Springs archives, Gene Trindl's photos give glimpses of the golden age of television

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What began in 1936 as a 12-year-old's Boy Scout task, became Gene Trindl's lifetime passion.

His daughter, Colorado Springs resident Joani Schofield, says that once her father took on photography in order to earn a coveted Scout merit badge, "he never put the camera down."

Best-known for producing more than 200 covers for TV Guide, Trindl shot an overwhelming number of Hollywood's elite during his lifetime. Icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, and the stars of television shows such as I Dream of Jeannie and Star Trek, all sat for the man who his daughter describes as "just thoroughly a photographer in absolutely every way."

Growing up, Schofield remembers photography playing a major role in her entire family's life. Their house had its own darkrooms (and the accompanying "smell of chemicals"), and television was not just a way to pass the time.

"I can remember being at home and having to watch a particular show so he could get a feel for the characters," Schofield says.

Double exposure

Schofield worked for her father in the Los Angeles area for about 10 of the 55 years he freelanced as a photographer. Trindl died in 2004, and since then, Schofield has carried on his memory by managing the 90,000-plus edited transparencies and tens of thousands of film negatives in his archives, which are housed here in the Springs. This month at Boulder Street Gallery, locals will have a rare opportunity to view some of the famous faces Trindl captured.

The gallery's president, Terry Henderson, looks forward to opening up the vaults with Schofield.

"Going from Louis Armstrong to Star Trek is quite a range," Henderson says. "There's so much photography — and so many subjects ... it's impossible for us to put everything in the store."

Which is why the two are collaborating on a presentation book that will expand on the wall hangings by showing off a large number of Trindl's photos from the 1950s to the 1980s.

One of the images that will be on the wall is a photograph of Armstrong. According to Schofield, this well-known shot of her dad's was taken in 1955: A TV Guide writer was interviewing Armstrong in a very small dressing room as Trindl was shooting. One of the questions made Armstrong pause and turn pensive, giving him a look that was unusual for the musician.

"Most of the pictures that you see [of Armstrong] are with his instrument, or a very, very broad smile," she says. "It was what he was known for."

But then, one of the skills her father was known for was this exact thing: catching his subjects in out-of-character moments.

Focal point

Trindl was also known for how he connected with his subjects.

"Something he taught me when I was growing up, just as his daughter," Schofield says, "is that these were not stars. They were not put on pedestals. They were not greater than you or I. They were just human beings, like you or I — this just happens to be how they make their living."

She believes that it was this approach that her father had — treating each individual like his next-door neighbor — that made possible the expressions and the emotions he was able to catch on film. Unlike many photographers, including many who hung around the Hollywood venues, he was never awestruck.

"I think they may have found it refreshing that somebody treated them just like a quote-unquote normal person," Schofield says, "if there is such a thing."

That, and his "tremendous sense of humor," Schofield adds, which showed up in his interactions with people, as well as in the photos themselves. Take, for example, one shot of Alfred Hitchcock, the movie maven known for dark imagery.

"There's an Alfred Hitchcock picture where [my father's] strobe did not go off on one side of his face. ... Over the dark eye, or the dark side of Hitchcock's face that did not get exposed, as a joke [my father] cut out a TV Guide logo and put it over Hitchcock's eye and sent it to his editor."

She laughs as she describes the situation.

"It just was an outtake. This was a mistake photograph — but they ran it as a TV Guide cover."

Schofield notes with a wistful pride that her father's work can't be summed up in one single image: "It's a real story of Hollywood and television."

kakens@csindy.com

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