This birthday wish might seem rather late. The remaining hours of Rich Clarkson’s 80th birthday will shortly run out. The delay in Laura’s and my birthday wish was due to the surprise birthday party held tonight for Rich in Denver, Colorado.
We had to keep the secret even though we could not join in the celebration. An amazing group of newspaper, major magazine and freelance photographers and editors are trading many a good story in Denver as I write. We do wish we could be there to share in the fun. The short video that leads this story off is part of a video tribute to our dear friend shown tonight. During the Sports Photography Workshop, I shared some stories about Rich for the video being put together by his loyal group of workers at Rich Clarkson & Associates.
Rich’ s role in my photographic growth, as well as my life, are well documented on this blog, highlighted by the story of the surprise grand reunion between Rich and 35 members of his Topeka Capital-Journal staff members in Oregon in the summer of 2010. What I fully realized at that reunion is my good fortune to see and continue to work beside and with Rich so much over the years. My direct work with Rich ended in 1979 when I left Topeka for the Arizona Republic and he a few years later moved on to the Denver Post and then a variety of other jobs including the managing editor title at the National Geographic. Yet, we see each other often every year, and Laura and I spent a great deal of time with Rich at the workshop in late July.
We have remained close friends which has not always been easy. The entrance to Rich’s dog house has been well-worn by many staff members, and I surely spent my share of time there. Nevertheless, as with any challenge the Lord places in front of me, I have learned so much from my time in that dog house. One of the things I learned was to not back down to Rich. I have had to call Rich out a number of times and am proud I did.
No matter where I stood with Rich, I never lost touch with the fact the man is a giant in the world of photojournalism both as a photographer and as the greatest real life photojournalism teacher even known. Over and over again, as the top sports shooters and editors share their knowledge with students at the week-long sports photography workshop, we always remark how those lessons in some way came directly, as in my career, or indirectly, as with the others through Rich. We all hope that those students never forget the great debt of gratitude we all owe Rich for his never-ending efforts to advance great photography. Anyone serious about their photography should take the time to attend one of the wide variety of workshops Rich and his staff offer. Relish the time you would have with Rich.
There is no way I can ever truly thank Rich enough. He has been so good to me and to Laura. We both have come to realize how much Rich respects my career as a photographer, as the director of photography where he became legend in Topeka and now at his beloved alma mater, the University of Kansas, where he once really was great friends with the famed KU coach Phog Allen. We are truly grateful, but just saying that is not enough.
Let me close with this fact. I hope it serves as testimony to what Rich means to me. Every time I pick up a camera, every time I handle my various photographic roles and every time I have helped an aspiring photographer as Rich once did with me, I think of the lessons I learned from Rich.
When the executive editor at the Capital-Journal named me director of photography in 1990, he outlined all his expectations and asked whether I was capable of meeting those expectations. I assured him that the standard of expectation I strived to attain would so far exceed his, that this was not a problem. Those expectations became standards set for me long ago by Rich Clarkson. To this day, it is still my desire is to exceed those expectations.
That is the best possible gift I can offer. Happy Birthday, Rich from both of us to our dear friend.