Day One hundred fifty-seven:

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.

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2 thoughts on “Day One hundred fifty-seven:

  1. Great piece Paulie. Not enough can be said about Randy. It was just a few months ago that he and I had an online conversation about buying a new camera. He had a few questions for me, and we sorted through the mess. He never mentioned anything about his health, which points to him not wanting anyone to make a fuss. When I heard he was critical I was simply unable to move for a few minutes. And he and I had not really been in contact, with this recent exchange the only exception, in many years.
    When I interned at the paper, pretty much everyone, at some point in time, bailed me out, helped me, assisted me, guided me, heckled me or chewed me out. All of which I needed or deserved.
    Randy was unique in his assistance we’ll call it. He knew how to push my buttons, knew how to freak me out and also knew how to make me laugh.
    He knew I couldn’t sports to save my life, so when I got assigned a deadline basketball game, he was there too, working for the Gazette at that time. He had this sh%$ eating grin on his face as he walked up and sat down on the floor next to me.
    “I say we bet paychecks,” he said. “You shoot, and I’ll shoot, and whoever has the best frame gets both checks.” I was eating rice and living in the dark(at your house in the radon room) so he knew I didn’t have any money, and he knew what he could do shooting sports.
    The game began and he got up, bought some popcorn and took a seat in the front row, mock cheering and laughing at me. I was trying to find my inner zen sports shooter.
    I had heard stories of him shooting football games with one roll of film and had even heard he shot some sporting event and only exposed one frame.
    Seeing how the paper worked, I shot the first five minutes of the game, raced back to the paper and gave my film to someone….Rob I think, and never saw what I actually had.
    The following day Randy came up with a huge inside, black and white photo, from OUR paper an tossed it in my lap. “You would have won,” he said. “I didn’t get anything.”
    It was my photo, one I didn’t even know I’d made because I was stressing so hard. I remember him walking away and giggling.
    I loved his sense of humor. Nothing was off limits and we would go to spaggetti factory and laugh about all kinds of stuff.
    I also remember him coming into the darkroom one night with a page of slides. He’d done a story, a great story, on his own time, and hadn’t told anyone about it. I don’t remember what the project was after all these years, but I remember seeing those images and thinking, “Man, this guy is the real deal.” It was dark, personal, intense and pictures that could only be made by getting really close.
    I also remember him trying to get me out on roller blades. I said,”Dude, I’m a child of the skateboard era, you will never see me wearing roller blades.” Once he knew I would never do it he was relentless in trying to get me out. Again, we laughed ourselves silly over it.
    Him not being here is one of those things about life that is so unfair. He will always be a part of my photo baggage that I’m happily carrying through life. I owe him.

  2. Wow….simply profound writing. How wonderful for you to share that with us.

    Yes time passes way too quickly….

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Love,
    Peggy :=)

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