Publisher's Letter

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Getting 52 PEOPLE photographers together isn't a snap. Spread across two continents in 17 cities, they spend most of their time on the road, tracking the unusual, chasing the glamorous, coaxing the extraordinary out of the ordinary. But when we asked them to put down their cameras and jet to New York for our first annual Black and White Ball, the result was, as Nashville-based photographer Slick Lawson put it, "an inspirin' gatherin'."

The Plaza hotel gala was a tribute to those professionals whose black-and-white photos make PEOPLE so colorful. "It was a celebration of the people who have helped to make this the most successful magazine in the world," says Managing Editor Jim Gaines. "Normally we send pats on the back from a distance. This was a chance to salute them properly."

It was also one heck of a party. The photographers flew in from locations as far-flung as London and Los Angeles, Atlanta and Austin, Detroit, Dallas and Paris. Gleeful greetings popped like flashbulbs as people matched faces with the photo credits to pictures they have admired for years. "Sometimes you wonder whether anybody notices your work, and so it was amazing to have people say, 'I remember that picture you took two years ago,' " says New York photographer Marianne Barcellona.

The partygoers included L.A.-based Steve Schapiro, who has been a frequent contributor to the magazine since shooting PEOPLE'S first cover (Mia Farrow) way back in 1974. New York's Harry Benson, who photographed the lead story for that same first issue, showed up fresh from shooting a cover we'll run a few weeks from now. London-based Ian Cook flew in from covering a reunion in Germany to attend our reunion on Central Park.

"What makes PEOPLE photographers special is that their pictures tell you something," says Picture Editor M.C. Marden, resplendent for the evening in a black-bodiced, waltz-length dress. "We ask them to find out what's on the mantelpiece, who someone's dating, how they relax—then shoot a lead picture that tells it all."

After nibbling smoked salmon roulade and stuffed mushrooms Florentine, guests entered the Plaza's ornate Terrace Room for a dinner of lobster bisque, radicchio and hearts of palm salad, stuffed Cornish game hen in orange brandy sauce, artichoke bottoms filled with spinach mousse, and crème brûlén raspberries. The Peter Duchin Orchestra provided the music, though light-footed paparazzo Ron Galella kept leaving the dance floor to grab snapshots of his colleagues.

When the lights finally dimmed at 2 a.m., new friends exchanged addresses while diehards ventured out in their tuxes and taffeta gowns to close down the Big Apple. "It must have been something in the air," says Barcellona of the evening. "It was magic." Two photographers who hadn't seen each other since they covered the Beatles together in Europe 25 years ago vowed so much time wouldn't go by before they met again. Meanwhile, we hope to continue giving you the pleasure of meeting these fine photographers week after week in PEOPLE.

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