Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Krasky has left the building ...

For 36 years this sig graced newspapers across the country: AP Photo/Lou Krasky. Now, after one of those storied careers in which he photographed presidents and popes, dozens of heros and scores of just plain folk, and too many sports events to begin counting, 

Lou has left his desk in the AP Columbia bureau for a well-deserved retirement. Lou joined the AP in 1968 after working in Raleigh and Wilmington, N.C., and as his bio blurb says: Lou has covered state, national and world events, including World Summits, two World's Fairs, the Reagan inauguration, space shuttle launches, PGA Tour events, George Rogers' Heisman Trophy season, stock car races and Hurricane Hugo.

The always irascible Lou could pull off some amazing feats with a camera. I had the pleasure of working with him for nine years as AP news editor, and some of his shots were legendary. The one I remember most was of South Carolina's first black chief justice since Reconstruction, Ernest Finney. As the General Assembly voted to elevate Finney, the chief-justice-to-be stood in the balcony of the House chamber, which back in 1994, before its renovation, made a black hole look like a bright light. But Krasky captured the shot that ran on newspapers across the state and throughout the nation.

Behind his back, of course, we called him "the artiste."

Lou wasn't much for paperwork. One of the scourges of an AP bureau photographer is the reams of paper due monthly (even when it was done on computer, it wasn't much better) to pay a stable of stringers without whom the AP photo wire would be in trouble, and the regularly scheduled grumblings from the back of the newsroom always brought a chuckle.

But in the field, Lou was in his own element. A reporter with Lou at his or her side was much more likely to get an interview with the governor, ex-governors (who always spotted Lou in the crowd and usually came over to exchange greetings), scores of other pols and executives, or just the cop on the beat. The news editor or desk supervisor who didn't consult with Lou -- and occasionally get growled at by him -- before moving ahead on a big story was a fool.

It seems everyone knew Lou, and he knew everyone. He probably had taken their picture.

You got the feeling that Lou was never totally impressed with the new age of digital. But he took on the challenge and produced great work, showing how to push the technology.

So congrats, Lou. Hope you have a little more time to play golf, instead of shooting it. The world will be a little poorer as that AP Photo/Lou Krasky sig slowly turns, in many papers and on many Web sites, into AP File Photo. But we'll always know who was the one who pulled it off.

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