50 years of history at Madison Square Garden

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Sandy Kenyon reports on George Kalinsky, the official photographer at Madison Square Garden for a half century.

Photographs taken at the place billed "The World's Most Famous Arena" add up to a portrait of our city, and one man took them all.

George Kalinsky has served as the official photographer at Madison Square Garden for a half century, and the best of his work is now on display at The New York Historical Society.

The 70 photos capture icons of show business and sports, images so compelling that standing silent before them, one can almost hear the roar of the crowd on so many magical nights at MSG.

Together, they sum up more than a half century of history.

"I'm awed that I have taken so many iconic photographs," Kalinsky said.

He placed himself in fortune's way so that all of us may share what he witnessed.

"I've had a lot of memories and a lot of moments," he said. "And I've captured them one by one."

There are decisive moments with Diana Ross and David Bowie, Michael Jackson in his prime, and the last concert appearance by the late John Lennon.

"You don't know what that great moment is before you photograph the event, but you have to be prepared and ready," he said.

He was ready for events that happen once in a lifetime, like the only time Elvis Presley played venue. Kalinsky met him in his dressing room about 10 minutes before Elvis was to go on stage.

"We were talking, and he said in a very shy way -- Elvis was incredibly shy -- he said, 'What is the greatest moment you ever had in this building?'" Kalinksy said. "And, I said, 'Elvis, right here and right now.'"

One image of Frank Sinatra is the best ever taken of Ol' Blue Eyes, according to his daughter Tina. Kalinsky even taught Sinatra how to shoot pictures of a fight for the cover of Life Magazine.

Taken together, Kalinsky's photographs show he's proven more than worthy to work at the World's Most Famous Arena, but this gentleman photographer remains humble, concluding simply that he feels, "very good" that he's "been able to capture so much of the history of the city of New York."

The exhibit, "New York Through The Lens of George Kalinsky," will runs through June 3 at the New York Historical Society. For more information, visit NYHistory.org/exhibitions.

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