A Hollywood photographer who spent decades shooting pictures of glamorous stars says his favorite subject was a shy, adventurous pilot he thought of as a sister.
When Albert Bresnik signed on as Amelia Earhart's personal photographer in 1932, he was accustomed to subjects with more flash and charisma than the aviation pioneer. Eventually, he learned Earhart's inner beauty outshined the luster of his Hollywood subjects."She was a fantastic woman who didn't have what we call charisma. She had an inner loveliness, a gallant nature. She wanted to prove that women should be as good as men in flight," Bresnik, 74, said during an interview Wednesday.
"I have photographed the biggest stars, actresses that had a lot of beauty and talent. But Amelia has shone up above them all."
As part of Friday's 60th anniversary of Earhart's first trans-Atlantic flight, Bresnik is displaying rarely seen photographs of the aviator in this northern California city near San Jose. The photographs were taken during the five years before Earhart disappeared in the South Pacific.
On June 18, 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a navigator. She set out a day earlier, flying with pilot Wilmer Stultz, and an airplane mechanic, Lou Gordon, from Trepassey, Newfoundland, to Burry Port, Wales.
Although Earhart later made a solo flight across the Atlantic, the 1928 flight is hailed as a major aviation victory for women and was celebrated with a ticker tape parade in New York City.
Earhart met Bresnik four years later and hired him to accompany her to public events and help her prepare a book. Her husband, publisher George Putnam, approached Bresnik in 1932, while Bresnik was a photographer for CBS.
"She liked me very much, right off the bat. She called me her little brother. We just joked and got along very well. She didn't want anyone else to shoot her picture," said Bresnik, who lives in the Los Angeles area.
Several months before her mysterious disappearance they began shooting photographs for a book Earhart wanted to call "World Flight." Originally, Bresnik was to accompany Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan and her radio control operator Harry Manning on their last flight.
However, Bresnik was replaced by Earhart's flight technician Paul Mantz.
"I was supposed to go only because I would take pictures when she would stop and meet the heads of state. During the last 2,500 miles, I was to wait for her in Oakland and photograph her arrival."
The crew of four flew to Hawaii, but they returned to Oakland after the plane had mechanical problems. Earhart and Noonan then recommenced their historic flight attempt, heading east without Mantz and Manning.
"The preparations changed daily. She finally said to me, `Well, I'm leaving,' and I said, `I had a ticket to go and somewhere along the way I lost the ticket.' And she said, `Well, that's the way the wind blows."'
"I said, `God bless you. Have a nice trip and I'll see you when you get back."'
Several years after the disappearance, the book was published as "Last Flight." It features many of Bresnik's photographs of Earhart and her Model 10E Electra "Flying Laboratory," the aircraft she was flying when she disappeared.
Most of Bresnik's Earhart photos were stored away after her disappearance.
Many of the details surrounding Earhart's disappearance are unknown. It is known that she completed about 22,000 miles of the flight, and it is believed she went down within 100 miles of the Howland Islands in the South Pacific.
Over the years, there have been claims that Earhart is alive and living on an island in the South Pacific or that she and Manning were actually spies who were kidnapped by the Japanese.
While Bresnik dismisses most of these claims, but he does have one bizarre story of his own.
The day before Earhart was reported missing, a man walked into Bresnik's Hollywood shop and identified himself as a doctor, Bresnik said. He stared at one of Bresnik's photographs of Earhart and said, "The lightforce in the Picture is gone, she's crashed and drowned." Bresnik said.