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The Good Life: Through the Lens of Bill Tarlow

by / Tuesday, 02 February 2016 / Published in News/Blog

Bill Tarlow modestly describes himself as a small town boy. Born and brought up in Brockton, MA, he graduated from Brockton High School in 1944, where he was voted most likely to succeed, and then joined the navy for two years. He completed his baccalaureate degree at Dartmouth College and then graduated from Harvard Law School. At Dartmouth, he was elected Captain of the golf team for three years.

His family started the shoe business in Brockton in 1917, creating Stone and Tarlow. In 1957, they bought Field and Flint Co., makers of Foot-Joy Shoes. Bill and his brother, Richard, made Foot-Joy into a name recognized worldwide in the manufacturing of golf shoes and gloves. Foot-Joy created programs that enabled golf pros to establish a business of selling golf products in their shop solidifying the relationship between pros and Foot-Joy. At Foot-Joy ‘s closing in 2009, Bill gave Boston Globe columnist, Sam Allis, a tour of the shuttered facility, the closing of which Allis viewed as the end of the era of shoe manufacturing in Brockton.

In the early days, Bill took pictures of the family, he often deferred to his father, who liked to take photos on holidays and put them into scrapbooks. His father was a communitarian. His views were a big influence on him. Bill believed in the responsibility of the individual to the community and the social importance of the family unit. He is concerned about the future of community and mourns the loss of the manufacturing industry in New England. It fostered community. The big box stores move in, destroying community in the process by limiting the ability of small entrepreneurs to own part of the business activity.

Bill married Marilyn Tarlow, a talented recognized artist, in 1952. She has been a vital influence on Bill as a photographer. Her abilities as an established artist and her teaching have influenced how he see things. He truly appreciates her persistence in ensuring that he have followed through with his own type of art. Together they had a joint exhibit at 249 A Street, South Boston in the 1980’s.

Bill started taking photography more seriously when he had an opportunity to take special trips. The following concepts have guided his work in photography: community, people, relationships, and communication. Bill enjoys taking photographs that capture candid moments of people in their natural environments. He would like to preserve a moment in time and bottle up a series of happy moments in the photographs to enjoy later. These moments often reflect family, workplaces that are also communities, and marketplaces that are often busy, bustling and noisy with a strong sense of community.


In the exhibit, there are many photographs from a trip to China in 1977 and trips to Mexico and photographs taken in the Foot Joy shoe factory. On a trip, Bill usually goes to the town market place in the early morning and watch the sequence of events during the day. He particularly likes to take pictures of people, families, children, grandparents and parents with children. He liked to look at people talking to one another, their expressions, their linking arms and holding hands. He liked to watch factory workers who take pride in their work and the company of their co-workers.

Bill had an Olympus 35 mm and but only used a normal (55mm) lens — i.e., no zoom. Thus, he had to get up close and personal. He always asked permission to take pictures. The subjects got to know and trust him. It seemed he had the ability to get up close and personal. He was patient, non-threatening and capable of getting pictures that other photographers had difficulty getting.

This exhibit required a lot of culling and resulted in a significant selection of images, from which Bill hopes you will take away a sense of beauty and hope.

Bill and Marilyn Tarlow have been residents of Springhouse Senior Living since February 2014.