What does music, baseball, & photography have in common? Lamonte McLemore of The Fifth Dimension stops by Soulful Sunday for a chat about his past and current endevors.
About Lamonte McLemore – Biography
Professional photographer for Playboy, Ebony, Jet, People, and Harper’s Bazaar magazines!!!
I was born in St. Louis, Mo. under the zodiac sign of Virgo (smiles). As one of four children, I only dreamed of playing baseball. And pitching for the Cardinals was the fastest way I knew to escape the poverty. Maybe even try my other fascination, the art of photography.
As a kid, playing cowboys and Indians, I’d have a cap pistol in one holster, and a camera in the other. One early Christmas, I asked for a photo developing set. My mother thought this to be an odd request, since she couldn’t afford the usual toys kids ask for. I set out immediately to show my thanks by having the whole family posing for photos.
At ten years old, my family was proud to have a possible budding scientist among them. But my film developing debut was a disaster. The film rolled too tight on the spool and stuck together – with everyone waiting to see the results of the boy genius. I just wanted to commit suicide. But a second try proved to be more successful.
My skills in baseball continued to develop, and the chance finally came to try out for the big leagues. And the Cardinals were the home team. After two tryouts with no success, I joined the Navy. I took every possible test for three years to get my job description (rate) changed from Steward to Photographer. Only, at the time, minorities had few opportunities for advancing to choice positions.
Stationed in Adak, Alaska, I purchased my first 35mm camera. I was then transferred to San Francisco, where I played baseball for the Navy special services. This led me to be signed to a minor league contract with the Dodgers organization. A celebration followed , that ended in a car accident, resulting in a broken arm, and goodbye Dodgers. I still play whenver I can, in an entertainment softball league.
Upon getting my mustering out pay of $550.00 for my discharge from the U.S. Navy, I went directly to purchase a used medium-format camera. The camera cost me $300.00, leaving me with $250.00 to find some place to stay and make it in big bad Hollywood. Someday I hope to write a book about all my experiences from the beginning ’til now.
I was lucky enough early in my career to photograph models for Harper’s Bazaar in Los Angeles, to shoot for Johnson’s publications, Jet and Ebony, and to land a few photo assignments for Playboy Enterprises. During this time, along with a few other people on the rise, we started our own fasion magazines, Elegant and Elegant Teen. The concept was the first of its kind.
Then my photography took a back seat for over twenty year to music, when I started and performed with talented individuals known as Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Bill Davis and Ron Townsend. We became known at The Fifth Dimensions. Mixing two careers sucessfully isn’t easy, and I am still doing both, being able to travel, sing and photograph some of the most exciting and beautiful people and places and marvels around the world. Well, I can’t think of too many other professions I’d rather be doing. I never leave on a singing tour without my camera around my neck.
The mystery of woman has always fascinated me. Only years of experience have taught me that the mystery is easier to enjoy than understand. I was asked once during an interview, “After photographing so many beautiful women, what kind did I like most?” Well, actually there are two kinds, foreign and domestic.
I trust these photographs will be appreciated for what they are – artform. No bogging down your senses with F-stops and ASA speeds, since the selections came together over a period of twenty-five years. Plus, I couldn’t remember half of them anyway.
I would like to acknowledge a few special people for their endearing support and special friendships: Cliff Hall, Howard Morehead, Sylvia Flanagan, John Daniels, Phyliss Ellis, Maurice Renaldi, John H. Johnson, Roger Roland Fuhr, Bennie Clay, William ‘Snooky’ Alexander, John Cook, Sterling Winters Company, The Fifth Dimension, and Le Roy Graham.