Making Portraits

Arbor Park faculty in tee shirts
Arbor Park Intermediate School Faculty and staff stand in the shape of a heart in the school’s gym. The educators are wearing T-shirts in honor of reading teacher Kris Burns who died suddenly of heart failure in September. The teachers purchased the T-shirts or made donations which will be given to the American Heart Association in Burn’s name.

If you picked up a copy of the  Citizen or Enterprise newspaper last week you found it wrapped around our annual Washington County Progress edition. This slick covered publication is packed with 100 or so photos, not counting the advertising and nearly as many articles about the people and history of our county.  Progress always reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner – all that planning and preparation for a feast that it is placed before us and then consumed in one sitting with plenty of leftovers to return to later.

The planning for this 80 plus page section begins in October and much of the interviewing, writing and photography is completed before the new year begins.  I have the easy part, and I think the fun part which is making the portraits and producing images that matches and hopefully enhance the fine writing by my colleagues.  I enjoy accompanying my co-workers or going out on my own to meet these interesting and accomplished people and to find unique visual ways to tell their stories.

Last week the P-T and Citizen newspapers were also packed with stories and images chronicling performances by Washington County Athletes at the State wrestling tournament at Century Link in Omaha.  I was pleased to assist sports editor Grant Egger in capturing images that helped to tell the stories of our wrestlers’ performances at the state meet.  I can totally relate to Grant’s comments that sports writers attempt to capture, “The powerful moments that, unfortunately, not everyone can see up close.”  I try to do the same thing in pictures.

For the past 13 years I have covered state wrestling, first in Lincoln when the tournament was held at the Bob Devaney, and now at Century Link in Omaha. In my opinion, there is no other sports event quite like it. I am addicted to the energy and to the intense rollercoaster ride of emotion that erupts from the mats that fill the arena.

Another fun activity that I usually photograph in February each year is the K-2 Jump Rope for Heart.  Photographs of the kids jumping rope will be featured in the Classroom of the Week in the Enterprise.  The “Pie the Teacher” assemblies celebrate the efforts by students to collect money for the American Heart Association.  Some of the pictures of smiling students and their pie-in-the-face teachers are in the paper today. This year the combined total for the K-2 effort approached $17,000.  That is no small piece of change!

I get online comments once-in-awhile from people who think it is terrible that kids hit their teachers with pies, but the pies are more placed and smooshed than thrown, and always with TLC.  Teachers and celebrity staff members happily volunteer and literally stand in line to get pied.

And finally, I want to comment on the Arbor Park and Blair Community Schools fundraiser in honor of my wife Kris Burns. Arbor Park physical education teacher Sandy Moore contacted me weeks ago to tell me about the T- shirt fund raiser they had planned. Sandy knew Kris well, and told me that the tee shirt they were designing would be simple and a design that Kris might wear. And she was right.  On Wednesday, wearing my ‘Forever a Piece of our Hearts’ tee shirt I was in the Arbor Park gymnasium before school with assistant editor Leeanna Ellis to do my job and take the picture of the Arbor Park teachers standing in the shape of a heart.  The picture and the accompanying story are something I will always treasure.

There is an intimacy to my job that is incredible.  Whether I am working on my own or with co-workers I try to make portraits that capture the qualities and character of the people in Washington County.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s