The Staff of Photographic Life

Kansas City Star photographer, David Eulitt.

Kansas City Star photographer, David Eulitt.

The face leading off this story is that of David Eulitt, an outstanding photographer with the Kansas City Star. As the Director of Photography at the Topeka Capital-Journal, I hired Eulitt in 1992 from the San Bernardino County Sun. He was young and filled with enthusiasm. His work during his years in Topeka was outstanding and will always be remembered by me for his strong graphic sense and story-telling images.

Eulitt was a key member of an outstanding staff during those years in the early 90’s. That seems long ago now, not because of age, but because the word “staff” no longer means what it should in the world of  photojournalism.

It would be easy to drift into a senseless rant about cost-cutting moves that stripped so many newspapers of real journalism for more favorable financial returns. I could write about newspaper executives’ resumes that now trumpet their cost-cutting, staff reducing and swelling bottom lines instead of top flight journalism. I could lament how the scores of great photographers, as well as real journalists, lost jobs so that reporters could take photographs with their smart phones or iPads in a hopeless effort to produce anything close to a sound journalistic image. It is painful to watch once great photographic newspapers, like Topeka’s, turn into wastelands, but that is not the point of this story.

Seeing Eulitt recently made me realize how sad it is that such great “staffs” really do not exist anymore. Eulitt is part of a pared-down staff in Kansas City. He wistfully remarked to me he actually sees me more than he does any other Star photographer, which means he rarely sees any of them. Digital cameras and electronic uploading of images means there is no need to drive from an assignment back to the newspaper. Photographers can do their work from home or a coffee shop just as easily.

As Eulitt said to me, “I feel like I’m a freelance photographer that has only one client.”

He revealed the Star staff now gathers only quarterly for staff meetings. We stood there lamenting the demise of staffs like two old men for all the obviously correct reasons – better communication, needed peer pressure, shared knowledge,  important unity and the occasional butt chewing.

However, what we truly agreed we missed is the loss of the endless fun we had doing everything we could to make great photographs while having more fun than humanly possible. The truly life-changing knowledge gained over shared lunches, post-shift beers or other crazy antics would be hard to match today.

My privilege is that I worked with some of the greatest photographic staffs ever assembled, and put together a wonderfully good staff myself during my Topeka years. No matter how far we roam or whatever job we now pursue, a bond between us will never fully diminish.

The Reunion Group (photo by David Alan Harvey)

The Topeka C-J Reunion Group (David Alan Harvey)

In 2010, 35 alums of the great Clarkson staffs gathered for a reunion in Eugene, Oregon. On the deck of the late Brian Lanker’s home, everyone shared stories from the celebrated years that spanned the mid 50’s into the early 80’s. Staff members came and went during those years, but each story was a shared part of everyone’s life, whether you worked with that person or not, because any of those staffs were also a part of our lives.

Back row from left: Keith Ladzinski, Bob Rosato, Dave Black, Rich Clarkson, Brad Smith, Mark Terrill, Brett Wilhelm, Richard Mackson. Front row from left: Matt Sewick, Bob Smith, Mark Reis, Steve Nowland, Joey Terrill, Jeff Jacobsen (Mugilan Rajasegeran)

Sports Photography Workshop 2011 staff. Back row from left: Keith Ladzinski, Bob Rosato, Dave Black, Rich Clarkson, Brad Smith, Mark Terrill, Brett Wilhelm, Richard Mackson. Front row from left: Matt Sewick, Bob Smith, Mark Reis, Steve Nowland, Joey Terrill, Jeff Jacobsen (Mugilan Rajasegeran)

Today, the staff of the Sports Photography Workshop is my staff life.  These acclaimed photographers come from all over the United States and from many different aspects of photography. Just as in Topeka, faces change each year, but the core remains and the bond I feel for each member is just as important now as it was in Topeka.

The person that grew to understand this completely and embrace these people with the same respect and importance as I do is my wife, Laura. Her photographic work for KU is strictly voluntary, even though it means a quantum increase in the hours she works on top of her academic duties.  Again, there are many reasons, but she also grows so much from time shared with our dear friends every summer in Colorado.  In our work, as in our marriage, with our Savior’s guidance, we have happily found the staff of life.

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About jeffjacobsen

Thank you for reading my blog, Here I Stand. You can read all about me, my wife and my family on the Family page. God bless and keep you.
This entry was posted in Friends, Journalism, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Staff of Photographic Life

  1. Jeff Sanchez says:

    Thanks Jeff! Working as a team to accomplish great work, help each other, and encourage each other is such a rewarding experience. Must have been a wonderful time in the 80’s and 90’s to be on a true photography staff.
    Thanks for sharing. I loved my time at last year’s sports photography workshop. I will really miss it this year.
    Your friend,
    Jeff Sanchez.

  2. joeyterrill says:

    Great read, as always, Jeff.

    The value of learning from and supporting one another when in a staff environment is clearly evident in the reunion image. All those great masters of photojournalism took the time to gather together years later and from miles away because that learning and support over the years mattered. It’s a bond that lasts. The sheer talent contained in that group seems to indicate that the nurturing staff environment paid huge dividends—not only to the newspaper, but to each individual photographer in that picture.

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