Paul Newman’s Baby Blues

In Black-and-White

Tom Zimberoff
7 min readJul 3, 2024


©1981 Tom Zimberoff

Every day, I am stared at by Paul Newman. His eyes follow me around the room like sapphire laser beams from where his portrait, an extravagantly large photograph, hangs on a wall. But it’s a black-and-white photograph.

At fifty-six, with a head of hair gone gray, Newman’s azure headlights still made women swoon. So, of course, I shot color film or my client, Columbia Pictures, to promote Newman’s starring role in 1981’s Absence of Malice. But I also wanted those baby blues to pack as much punch in monochrome as on a Technicolor cinema screen, to add something conspicuously distinctive to my personal portfolio. And because I didn’t like the idea of fiddling around in the darkroom to make Paul’s peepers pop every time I wanted to make a new print, I performed some hocus-pocus inside the camera while Paul was on camera that would save me the trouble. Photoshop was long into the future, but I knew how to expose black-and-white film so it would retain the properties necessary to lighten Paul’s eyes with no extra darkroom steps required, no matter how many prints I wanted to make at any given time — one and done. Essentially, I turned my negative into a template, even before processing the film. You might enjoy knowing how that trick was done.

First, black-and-white film is not monochromatic as it’s commonly described. The…