Longtime Herald photographer calls it a career

Tri-City Herald photographerFebruary 28, 2014 

After 33 years in photojournalism and nearly 18 with the Tri-City Herald, I’ve decided to give my head, heart and soul a much needed rest.

While I’ve been chasing early morning, late night, weekend and holiday assignments with this crazy job, my wife, kids and family have waited for me at home. I can’t get back the time I’ve missed with them, but I can make the most of what’s ahead. So I’m hopping off the rat wheel and slowing down for a bit.

Thanks Mid-Columbia for letting me land on your doorstep over the years.

Thanks also to the many people who have allowed me to tell their stories with photos. I’ve always been amazed at how on the worst, darkest days of your lives, you were willing to share your pain.

I’ve seen the best, worst and most tragic that life has to offer us fragile humans.

The Zaugg family of Kennewick comes to mind. Their amazing son Aidan beat cancer. I was thrilled to experience their joy and relief, only to feel their pain months later when the cancer came back and took him. I was honored to be personally asked to attend and photograph the funeral.

I’ve had a front row seat to the pain of others way too many times to count.

Like the time one of my favorite reporters, Dori O’Neal, and I stood five feet away and helplessly listened to a woman on the phone with her husband, telling him their 4-year-old daughter and his father had just drowned in a freak boating accident. My twin daughters were the same age and although my feelings paled in comparison to theirs, my heart was crushed.

But there have been so many amazing moments too.

This community has showed me time and again its caring and compassion for others and that I admire.

I’ll miss making pictures to help people, like the 10-year-old girl in Pasco who had her bike stolen two days before her birthday. I shot the photo and another favorite reporter, Sara Schilling, wrote the story. The community responded and got her a brand new bike the next day.

This job has allowed me to do some incredible things the average person will never experience — all because I have a press pass.

Parking has never been a problem and I never had to stand in a line, breezing past the paying customers to get to my assignment.

I also have felt the amazing joy of the buzzer beating shot, the Hail Mary pass to win the game and the tenderness of a parent having a simple sweet moment with their child.

Through it all I feel this is an important job, a craft I respect and hold in high esteem. I love photojournalism and leaving it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it is time for a change.

So thanks to all the law enforcement, fire officials, court system employees, government, city, school and business people and average citizens who have treated me with professional respect. I have appreciated it.

Thanks to our advertising sales reps for busting your humps and getting me a paycheck.

And thanks to all my fellow newsroom comrades.

Sports Editor Jeff Morrow, keep the dream alive for Water Follies to adapt to a figure-eight course.

Assistant Managing Editor Kristina Lord, keep linking it up and locking it down, letting all that sunshine and light coming through.

It’s a tough business filled with stress, lousy hours and not a whole lot of praise, but like me, my colleagues do it because they are proud of what they do.

Be thankful Mid-Columbia that you have people like this who care enough to tell your stories and put out the best product they can with the dwindling resources at hand.

I came into town shooting and processing film, praying over a light table to find my images. I will leave shooting all digital, tweeting breaking news while uploading videos to YouTube and pimping it all on Facebook on an iPhone.

Much has changed in the newspaper business but not the way a visual story is told.

Good photos still take time, and as I’ve told many young shooters coming up in the ranks, you can’t muscle art.

And you can’t muscle life either, so it’s time to let go.

So for now I’m going to step aside and do life with my family.

The snow report says four inches of fresh snow is waiting for us at Mission Ridge, so I’ll start my decompression sabbatical there this weekend with my family on skis.

Peace and namaste.

Photographer Paul T. Erickson joined the Tri-City Herald in 1996. Friday was his last day. He can be reached via email at skisteeper@gmail.com.

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