"When my Dad first got sick in 2017 I really came to grips with my own mortality, and I basically started 'nesting.' I started copying all of my photo albums and negatives and organizing my archive into digital folders on my computer. There’s no telling how many thousands of pictures I’ve copied and scanned" since then. I've copied most of my personal albums, as well as my parents' albums, along with albums of my friends that I grew up with. "And I even have a complete PCHS Class of 88 gallery on my website with over a thousand pics going back to elementary school."
During this process, I became paranoid about all of the photos that are just sitting somewhere on a disc or external hard drive in my archive, that should be part of my official portfolio, but would otherwise never see the light of day again. I've literally woken up in the middle of the night, thinking about a decent photo that I took in 2005, wondering where it's at. As a photographer my photos are a lot like my kids. When you create a photo it's like giving birth. You conceive it in your brain and your eyes, and it comes to life through the camera, which is just an extension of your brain. The thoughts of losing a photo is like losing a kid. Even the bad photos, I just can't bring myself to delete them.
"My boys could care less about my archive, but Laura appreciates history like I do. For better or worse, it’s history and it matters to me. She’s my little curator (and my little undertaker). I’ve told her, 'When I die, don’t stress out over what to do with all of my shit! Feel free to get a bottle of wine and have a big bonfire and burn all of it! But in the meantime, I don’t have the heart to let it go, so you’ll have to do that for me.'”
So, about a year ago, I got serious about my updating and organizing my portfolio (Click on the Portfolio button on the home page to access it). If a new client wants to hire me, the slideshow on my home page has plenty to help them decide if I'm worthy or not, but my actual portfolio galleries represent my life's work. They're a body of work that I've been building since I was a kid in 1978. They're like owning a virtual photo gallery. Some photos are in there because they represent my best work. But to be honest, most things are in there because of the story behind photo, not necessarily the photo itself. For example, one of the largest galleries is called Snappers which are behind-the-scene photos of myself and the people I've had the pleasure to work with the last 36 years. I've even added cutlines to several in that gallery, just to add a little context.
It's taken me almost a year to get my portfolio lined out because I still have to go back and edit most of these. Let's just say... I wasn't the greatest in the darkroom. Water spots and dust spots were my nemesis. And with the digital photos, trying to find the full-rez versions has been harder than I thought. My general rule is no photos less than 1000 Kilobytes. Some of the early digital cameras just didn't produce large files.
I don't know that I'll ever fully retire from photography because it's something I can do as an old man, but I am slowing down some, focusing more on meaningful projects. My OCD can rest easier now that my life's work is organized and preserved.
If anyone wonders why I end all of my blog posts with -30-, it's because back in my day that's the way they taught you to end your stories, so that the copy editors would know that it was the end. Tradition holds that back in the day with the wire services, New York would end a story with -thirsty- so that Chicago would know that was the end of the story. Thirsty meant it was time to go drink a beer. And that eventually turned into the shortened version of -30-.
Here are a few Snappers. I'm not sure why it's called Snappers. The former crew at the Lexington Herald-Leader coined that phrase, and it stuck!
I had never seen this image before. Then one day in 2017, while I was scanning in some of my parent's photo albums and negatives, I ran across the negative to this photo that somehow never got printed in 1979. Wow! What a hidden treasure! My Dad took a picture of me taking a picture of my Mom on our family farm in Carter County when I was in 4th grade. I had been doing photography about a year at this time. My Dad couldn't have started me out any harder than he unknowingly did. I was using an Agfa viewfinder camera that my Mom's brother brought to her from Germany in the early 1960s. It was 100 percent manual, with no light meter or focus mechanism. So I had to guess at the f-stop and shutter speed settings, as well as the footage between me and my subject. And to boot, he started me on slide film, which has no forgiveness. To this day, my greatest strength as a photographer is being able to recognize and evaluate light. I owe all of this to my Dad who taught me how to read light, years before my time. Thanks Dad!
After shooting all but two days of the FEI World Equestrian Games for the Louisville Courier-Journal in the fall of 2010, I was ready for a nap on the last day in the media center.
Shooting my first of several Kentucky Derbies for the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2006.
I'd love to have a dime for every time I've set up and torn down a light system in my career!
The greatest assignment ever! Covering Spring Break 1991 at Daytona Beach for The Eastern Progress.
Jerry Schierman, seen here with me at the All-A Classic in 2014, was one of the most important mentors that I ever had. I mowed the grass at East Kentucky Power in Winchester during the summers of 1989 and 1990, and on rainy days I was inside the buildings changing light bulbs. Jerry was the communications manager at EKPC, and gave very valuable advice when he told me to switch my major at Eastern Kentucky University from public relations to journalism, because he said it would make me a better writer. Jerry's department always had the brightest lights because I would constantly change them out on rainy days just so that I could hang out up there and ask questions.
Jerry gave me a very sobering critique of my photography in the summer of 1990. Things like the importance of being in focus, and better darkroom skills. He was brutally honest, and as bad as it hurt, I really needed to hear that because I was at the point that my parents and friends were telling me how good I was when I really wasn't. Sometimes you need to hear the truth and I worked hard to get better at photography because of Jerry.
Instead of developing my last roll of film I decided to keep it.
Photography is a lot like a mistress. You love it and it constantly pulls you away from your family. So I worked hard to involve my kids with my work as much as I could.
The Eastern Progress staff Fall of 1991. Our class was easily the most successful class to ever come out of The Progress, even to this day, thanks to the teaching, nurturing, ball-busting, paycheck-withholding, genuine love, and mentoring of our adviser Dr. Libby Fraas, middle row, far right. Some of the people photographed here went on to work at The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Southwest Times Record, The Milwaukee Journal, The Detroit Free-Press, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, a state representative, and press secretary for governors Paul Patton and Steve Beshear. And then there was me. I worked at The Clay City Times and came back to Eastern as the University Photographer. What can I say... I stayed local, HA!
The general consensus was if you can work for Libby Fraas you can work for anybody in the country. And that was so true. Don't even think about missing deadline. It's not an option. Which was why it was so epic for our last issue on December 4, 1991, that Doc made the decision to hold deadline for me to come back from my native Powell County where I had covered the death of former Kentucky governor Bert T. Combs on that Wednesday. I wrote my story in my head on the drive back to Richmond, and then had a whole host of editors, including Doc standing over my shoulder editing in The Progress office as I wrote it. Turns out, I was the only reporter there that day that mentioned that he died within a few feet of the parkway that bore his name, The Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway. I passed off my film for my assistant photo editor to develop and print. The OCD in me hated to pass off my film, but deadline was deadline! To say that I went out in a blaze of glory is an understatement.
The group from Argentina kidnapped me and absconded with my camera during the 2015 Alltech One Conference. But a good time was had by all!
I interned with the Kentucky Press Association in Frankfort during the Spring of 1992, covering the General Assembly. I wrote a weekly wrap-up story and sent it out to all of the weekly newspapers in the state. It was a great time to be in Frankfort. Brereton Jones was inaugurated governor. Arkansas governor Bill Clinton made a presidential campaign stop. It was the first session after the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. And the FBI conducted a sting operation that later lead to several arrests in Operation Bop Trot. But best of all was living in the old KPA house on Capitol Avenue, just two blocks from the capitol, with three other friends from Eastern, and two girls we met at the Legislative Research Commission. One of which was Laura Hasselwander, above, who was an intern photographer for the LRC. Laura later hired on fulltime with the LRC.
Pictured below, after being super skinny my entire life, beer, Ale-8s, and college food caught up with me and gave me a gut in the spring of 1992. And unfortunately, it has never gone away since then. But, as I like to say, I have way too much money invested in this Dad-Bod of mine to get rid of it now!
Kentucky House of Representatives, April 1992.
Hanging out with Dana Estep at The Clay City Times during the Summer of 1991. I turned down an internship at the Lexington Herald-Leader to come back to my hometown community newspaper. People told me I was stupid for doing that, but I got so much experience that summer as both a writer and a photographer that I would have never gotten at the Herald-Leader. I literally lived with a police scanner 24/7. Sometimes it's best to trust your gut feeling, even if it doesn't make sense on paper.
Don't ever stop working a good angle, even if it means pushing your nose out of the way.
Wading the Licking River in Cynthiana with my camera condom, while photographing muscles, May 2018.
Enduring sub-zero temperatures in the Red River Gorge, January 2005, just to get some snow shots.
My Dad gave me some valuable advice in 1989, "The one thing in life you can count on is change. You may not like it. But you can count on it." As much as I loved being the University Photographer for my alma mater, it was time to move on in January 2004. I turned over the reigns to my student photographer Chris Radcliffe, who quickly blazed his own trail and took the position to new levels. He's seen here testing firing a remote camera behind the glass in McBrayer Arena with me and my son Nolan in 2006.
Covering the Boys Sweet 16 as the official KHSAA photographer in 2013 with my buddy Mark Cornelison, who was with the Lexington Herald-Leader at the time and is now UK's University Photographer. I didn't realize it until later, but coach Cal and his son Brad were sitting behind us.
My tribe and I at The Eastern Progress awards dinner, April 1991. I was named Outstanding Ad Rep that night after a year of selling ads in downtown Richmond. The following semester I became the first person in Progress history to win that award in two different categories, when I was named Outstanding Editor as photo editor.