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.
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.
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.