A good-bye to Randy…
Sunday was the memorial service for former Phoenix Gazette and Arizona Republic photographer Randy Reid.
Randy passed away in May after a courageous battle against cancer. He was only 49 years old.
Randy was one helluva photographer. I don’t know of any photographer who so effortlessly covered sports and not only nailed a great image, but a storytelling image.
To do both at once takes great understanding of the game from the journalist’s standpoint, but also requires the knack for being in the right place at the right time from the photographer’s perspective.
One of my favorite memories (though somewhat maddening) of Randy is how incredibly efficient he was in his coverage. He covered the triple overtime game of the NBA Finals in ’93 between the Bulls and the Suns with no more than four or five rolls of 36 exposure film (I shot upwards of 20, if I remember correctly). And he did it with relish. He created a game within this game (probably the most important game in over 25 years for the Suns) — to see how LITTLE he could shoot and still get what he needed. He wanted to only take a photograph when it was worth it and no more.
And while Randy was “hording his nuts”, I was sweating bullets on the opposite side of the court, hoping that I wouldn’t run out of film in case the game went even longer.
But Randy was more than simply a great photographer. He was a great colleague and pushed you to be better because you knew he was the competition. And yet, he would gladly and honestly share his thoughts on your game coverage and help with your edit or, during contest season, would offer impeccable advice as you worked to create a narrative on a documentary photo essay. He knew how to sequence images much like a piano score, pacing the story with a variety of angles and compositions that when combined told a story, and weren’t just a collection of photos.
He was passionate about the usage of the photographs in the newspaper as well. Working for the Gazette, he became accustomed to their stellar display, which often destroyed our paper, the more staid and conservative “paper of record”. He believed, that a good photograph would be great if it were to run large (like five or six columns — all the way across the paper) and an great photograph would simply be awesome if it were to run that large as well.
We had many hours of passionate debates on photojournalism, the state of newspapers, discussions ranging from Howard Stern (we used to kill ourselves laughing over some of the characters that would be on the show) to tips on climbing Camelback Mountain.. We would share our favorite movie quotes and then try to imitate the actor (I distinctly remember his impersonation of Billy Bob Thornton from Slingblade and how he physically became that character while doing it).
Plus with another night colleague, Pete Schwepker, we would all often gather long after our shifts were over and continue those debates that were started over dinner, hoping that our passion and drive to not only make great photographs and then to see those pictures run well would somehow be translated to better usage in the paper especially when the staffs merged and the Gazette was closed (and with it, all its great photo usage).
The memorial today was held at his brother’s gorgeous home in south Gilbert, not too far from where Randy used to live.
When we arrived the street was full of cars and the home was full of family, friends and former colleagues all who gathered inside and escaped the brutal summer heat to pay our respects to Randy, who really didn’t want us to make a fuss.
I’m glad that we did though.
It was amazing to see fellow photographers and writers, some that I had not seen in years and most who had never met our children. Seeing them and realizing that 8 years had passed since saying goodbye and moving to California (nearly a decade-yikes!) gave me a crushing sense of how quickly that this life indeed moves. When I was younger I thought things would just stay the same, that time would always linger like summer does when you’re a kid.
But when such a huge amount of time passes between visits and one of ours leaves us, you realize that it just won’t.
We were there to simply be with each other and shake our heads — sometimes in laughter as we remembered Randy and his stories and at other times with feeling of deep sadness as old friends shared a hug, and a knowledge that a part of us — a very significant and wonderful part of us — was gone.