SO WHAT WILL I HANG FROM MY REAR-VIEW MIRROR NOW?
So several times this week people asked me, “Why are you here, why aren’t you taking time off since you’re basically done?” Well, the answer is, I love my job. I worked too hard to get it just to walk away from it. I guess I need to be pushed out the door, and that’s what’s happening Monday. You see I just didn’t get out of college and get my dream job. I took the long, windy road to get it, and so it means a lot more to me to keep it, even if it’s just for one more week.
I remember sitting in the stands at ASU football games watching the action 50 percent of the time and watching the photographers (many who I admired and wanted to be like), and the other half of the time on the sidelines thinking to myself, I could do that, I just need to do it. After paying off my car and credit cards I went back to school to pursue it. After making some local contacts and honing my skills again, I was back to living and doing the thing I loved most, shooting. I didn’t care if it was building mugs, ugly mutt dog shows, business stories or even being told go look for wild art, I was shooting/working and I was living my dream job. I know that may sound corny to some of you, but I love having a camera in my hands.
Over the years I’ve had the great pleasure of capturing images of three former presidents, and our current one, three Super Bowls, countless Diamondbacks, Suns, and Sun Devil games and one of the most memorable World Series we’ve seen in years. It was during a road trip to Atlanta in 2001 that I realized I had made it. I shared a taxi with a Republic sportswriter to the media hotel and during that short trip he commented that I was doing a fantastic job, and that he and his bosses were noticing how the little paper in the next town over was kicking butt, especially the photography. I was floored and proud at the same time. Here I was shooting against their best and more than holding my own. I used to look over their shoulders and now I’m hearing they’re looking over mine. Boy, that made my day.
I loved being the underdog. I took pride in beating the big guys on the big stage, but especially in our own back yard. The East Valley was ours and we covered it like nobody’s business. I wore my Tribune ID badge proudly. I just don’t know what I’m going to hang now from my rear-view mirror now? My badge hung from there for over 15 years, but after Monday it will be gone. There won’t only be a void in my car, but one in my heart.
Here comes the THANKS! There are a lot of people over the years to thank, but my biggest thanks goes out to Rick Wiley, who took a chance on this 32-year-old rookie, you gave me my first REAL start in this business and I thank you for it; the last 15-plus years have been the best years of my life. There was never a day I didn’t want to come to work. And to thank some people back in the good ole days like night editors Lorraine Whetstone and Cheryl Hurd who pushed for good photo play of story-telling photos even though they were writers at heart. To copy/layout editors like Gary Smith, whose dry sense of humor left me guessing most of the time on what they were going to do with my photos, it made me want to get up in the morning to look at the paper. To the sports department, thanks for the road trips; if it wasn’t for you guys and the teams you covered I would have never seen parts of this country and historical events that have taken place over the years. To reporters like Gary Grado, Ryan Gabrielson and Katie McDevitt just to name a few, I loved listening to you guys ask tough questions while I sat on the photo desk. I could NEVER do what you guys do, but I loved the way you did it, with passion and conviction, if only the readers knew your tenacity that I got to know, they would have been proud to work with you too.
But with all that said, I have to thank the guys and gals that I shot alongside day in and day out, THANKS for making me a better photographer. The way you guys and gals shot made me look at photojournalism in so many different ways. Brad, thanks for sharing your stories, the way you added compassion to your assignments was heartwarming and always showed in your photographs. In my eyes you went above and beyond in reaching out with your subjects, you made our paper and community better. Ralph, your passion and attention to detail made me crazy sometimes, but you don’t know how many times I looked at a photo and said, “Damn! I wish I would have taken that.” I think that’s the best compliment I can give, you’re so damn talented. I’ve been lucky to work with and alongside a lot of talented photographers and friends and I think that’s what I’ll miss the most — the camaraderie. I know you hear sports figures who retire say that all the time, but it’s true. I just hope it’s not completely over; I still have the passion and drive and I’m gonna do my damnedest to rub shoulders with all of you again soon.
Keep those shutters clicking. If you don’t someone else will, so it might as well be you.