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Here's to the great ones - my friends

Here’s to the great ones - my friends.

David Grunfeld, Chris Granger, Andrew Boyd, Brett Duke and Michael DeMocker.

Please accept this personal, heartfelt thank you - for all that you have meant to me over our years as we worked together at | The Times-Picayune.

Andrew, third from left.

You were one of my first mentors, a relationship that started when you came to speak to my photojournalism class at USM. You had just won the title of NPPA’s Region 8 Photographer of the Year, and your photos sparked a new appreciation for what it meant to be pro. And when I nervously handed you my portfolio for a critique, you gently encouraged me, but at the same time, you held me to a critical standard. You also told me to stop signing my prints with India ink calligraphy pens. You simply pointed to the bottom right-hand corner and asked, "what is this?” When I explained, you simply said, “Stop that.” That was in 1982, but you have continued to support me and teach me to be a better journalist. As my editor, you further encouraged me to find my own stories and write. And any success I enjoyed with shooting, editing and producing video I owe to you.

David, far left.

You have an incredible photographic eye, and a boundless, prolific pursuit of news. Those descriptors are not offered lightly. They are your gifts. Your father’s legacy is in good hands.

I will forever remember bearing up together under the horrors of Katrina, sniffing out stories while we foraged for food, water, equipment and housing together. It’s no exaggeration that you saved my life during the lawless hysteria in the weeks that followed. Your quick thinking saved me from that shotgun. But on a lighter topic, #isawitfirst is probably the least inspiring slogan that three photographers ever invented, but it still makes you, Chris Graythen and me laugh. And it helps us remember that our friendship will always survive and thrive despite our inherent competitive natures.

Michael, far right.

By tenacity and pure grit, you’ve earned the mantle of spot news photographer from the great G.E. Arnold, who was impossible to beat to a scene. Before you were a staffer, I remember racing to a breaking news scene at the intersection of Broad and Earhart, just two blocks from 3800 Howard, only to find that G.E. had already arrived from Terrytown. Now, it’s you standing there when I arrive, or waving me off even before I know what’s happening. I’ve always appreciated your ability to drive fast, but I’ve never understood how you are always “in the neighborhood.” Hmmmmmmm.

And I’ve always said, “if something happens in front of Michael, he will NOT miss the picture.” You can count on it...and we do.

Chris, second from left.

Your artistry and mastery of light is beyond compare, and sometime beyond comprehension. You know, we photographers talk about you behind your back. “How does he do that?” we say as we huddle around our laptops and study your images. We all look at your portraits and marvel. The tone, the texture. And it seems like the more famous your subjects are, the more at ease they are. It must be your classy, easy-going style. I’ll continue to enjoy your quirky scenes from this quirky town. Always beautiful. Please, never stop.

And finally, Brett, fifth from left.

What can I say? Your spirit is your crown. You have the incredible ability to connect with people’s hearts, most likely due to your innate compassion for everyone. EVERYONE. We’ve shared so many great adventures together – Katrina, boat trips and late night stakeouts. But I’ll never forget being paired up with you to cover Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal as they raced for the Governor’s Mansion. You had Kathleen and I had Bobby. You kicked my butt, and we both knew it. You made it look so easy. You’re a greater photographer than you let yourself believe. But, more importantly, you’ve always been my friend. Thanks for taking me fishing on my first day of #postpicayune.

There are a million more things to say to each of you, but it would require a book. Thanks for putting up with me, and especially for covering for me during my extended projects. I’m forever in your debt.

And thank you for lunch last week. A great surprise. That was fun. Let’s do that again.

Here’s to the great ones - you, my friends.

May we always be family.


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