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November-December 2015

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In Memoriam: Tino Hammid (1952–2015)

Tino Hammid and his daughter Evelyn at her 2013 graduation from the University of California–Berkeley.

Tino Hammid and his daughter Evelyn at her 2013 graduation from the University of California–Berkeley.

When I received word that Tino Hammid had died after a two-year battle with colon cancer, my first thought was the remembrance of the sound of bagpipes. It was in 1988 during Tino's marriage ceremony to Mary Murphy that the bagpipers marched through a friend's house in Pasadena. It was a lovely California day that left me with a lifelong memory of the ceremony. Since then we remained friends.

Tino was an internationally known gem and jewelry photographer. His photos have been featured in most major jewelry publications as well as in gem and jewelry books. It was no surprise that Tino would pick up a camera and pursue photography as a career—his parents and grandmother are renowned photographers and filmmakers. The tutoring from these great photographers served him well.

Tino was born in New York City on 6 January 1952 to parents Alexandr Hackenschmied (better known as Sasha Hammid after becoming a U.S. citizen in 1942) and Hella Heyman Hammid. Tino's father had fled Czechoslovakia one month before Hitler's troops marched in and occupied the country. He had been much involved in avant-garde films in his homeland. Resisting Hollywood for fear that his style would be unfavorably influenced, he continued on in New York and garnered a long list of credits, including an Academy Award, but it is his film To Fly (one of the earliest IMAX films, done along with my fellow Laguna Beach neighbor Greg MacGillivray in 1976) that is still on view at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. (One of Tino's father's films that interested me, a cat owner, was The Private Life of a Cat, which came out in 1947.)

From 1980 to 1982 Tino was a staff photographer at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), located in Santa Monica at the time. One of his mentors there was the late Richard T. Liddicoat. In 1983 he left the GIA to pursue a career as a freelance photographer. For the next twenty-five years he was associated with David Federman of Modern Jeweler. His photos accompanied the monthly Gem Profile column in that magazine. During this period they jointly won two of the coveted Jesse H. Neal awards from the Association of Business Media.

In 1986 Tino and David visited Tiffany & Co. in New York to inquire about photographing some of Tiffany's famous antique jewelry for a cover of an upcoming issue of Modern Jewelry. While there Tino was introduced to the manager of the antique and estate jewelry department, Mary Margaret Murphy. They were engaged in 1987, and also in that year he acquired Christie's auction house as a client and photographed more than one hundred of their famous jewelry sales catalogues. Mary Murphy had also moved over to Christies, and both were fortunate to work under the great Françoise Curiel (now known as Chrisities' “man in Asia” in Hong Kong). Tino and Mary married in January 1988. They had one child, Evelyn, now twenty-four. They divorced in 2005.

Tino's commitment to Evelyn's education was so earnest that he lived very much on the frugal side so that she would have the fine education that he lacked. Evelyn attended some of the best private schools in the Los Angeles area. Tino was always involved, despite being the “poor” family in each of the schools. Evelyn works in marketing and advertising now, but she is not letting go of those cameras given to her by her father—perhaps another career in the future?

Tino met a lovely lade named Petra briefly at his father's apartment in New York City in 1999. At the time, Petra (who is from Zlin in the Czech Republic) was working on Tino's father's vast photography archive and planning an exhibition as its curator in 2004. Tino and Petra renewed the earlier introduction during this time, and they were married in 2006. They have twins, Antonia and Tobias, now seven years old. Tino was complete when surrounded by his family; the twins are absolutely adorable and were loved so much by Tino, who spent all of his available time with them.

One of Tino's latest works was on the Handbook of Gemology that features one of his photos on its cover and numerous others inside. Tino was greatly admired by other photographers in the field. I can't think of anyone who did not respect the man as well as his work.

Robert Weldon, GIA's manager of photography and visual communications, commented that “Tino's photographs have a simplicity and beauty to them that come from hard work, attention to detail, perfection in lighting, and just the right positioning of the gem. His photos are uncluttered, crisp, and honest; they are all about the gem. Dozens of photographers have sought to emulate his style, which, in a sense, has become the definition of excellence in a gemstone photograph.” Tino photographed the Hope Diamond, and it is one of the best photos of this famous gem I have seen. He was totally blown away by having the opportunity to get “up close and personal” with the blue stone.

In the last few years Tino was experimenting with computer art programs (such as ArtMatic) to take his photography into an entirely new arena. These abstract photos with such vivid colors are amazing, and I would have them on my walls. He also loved science, space, and flight. His plans to take flying lessons when he moved to New Jersey sadly will not be. Tino's idea of a good day would be to take his children to the Santa Monica Airport and watch the planes. Evelyn tells me that while growing up there was a great deal of gazing through a telescope because of Tino's keen interest in astronomy. (Tino, I hope you know that Pluto is back where it belongs!)

A place that Tino loved was his cabin in the woods in upstate New York. Just recently Tino and Petra sold their Los Angeles house in anticipation of a move to Leonia, New Jersey, where they purchased a house. Petra is going forward with that plan, and I just know that when she and the children visit this favorite place for Tino in New York, their hearts will fill with such good memories. Tino's heart was so big and so full of love for those around him. At the time of his death he was surrounded by his family. Petra hopes to put together a special show of Tino's photos,* and a private gathering is planned at their new home in New Jersey.

* For examples of Tino's extraordinary work, and

When I leaf through so many books with Tino's photography, I will not be sad. I will smile and marvel at the beauty he captured. There was nothing negative about this man—it was all good for those close to him and to all of us who can remember him through his work.

That's a wrap, Tino … thank you so much.

Dona Lee Leicht and her husband, Wayne, have owned and operated Kristalle in Laguna Beach, California, since 1974.

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