A study in black and white

I’ve photographed the Reverend Gary Putnam for various reasons over the years. I’ve covered him a couple times as he portrayed Abraham Lincoln. And while I knew that he also did a show as author Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, until recently I had never photographed him in that persona.

A history buff, Putnam dons a mid-1800s black suit, dies his shock of naturally white hair black and glues on Lincoln’s signature chin-beard then performs for audiences as our country’s 16th president. And while he does use some humor from Lincoln’s quotes, Putnam presents him with a somber gravitas that one would expect from one of our greatest presidents.

In September, I photographed Putnam in his Mark Twain performance for the first time. In a show at the Central United Methodist Church in Stockton, he donned a white-on-white suit complete with white tie and vest. He also wore Twain’s signature bushy white mustache glued to his upper lip. Putnam’s own white hair completed transformation to Samuel Clemens’ alter ego. His impersonation of Twain differed from that of Lincoln in that it was much more wry and funny, drawing from Twain’s sense of humor.

Both visually and in substance the Rev. Putnam’s performances of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain were studies in black and white.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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