So many of us are at an age where all too often we receive sad news about the passing of a friend. As an industry, we’re also at an age where more and more of the industry’s greatest artists are getting older, and it’s inevitable that we’ll be hearing more sad news.
Well, the saddest news for me in a long time came this past week when I heard that one of my very dearest friends, Bill Hurter passed away. His passing was followed by a barrage of incredible comments from a lot of wonderful people in the industry. For once though, I just sat quietly by and read and listened. It’s not that I didn’t want to comment, it’s more that I didn’t know how or what to say.
Right now I want to believe that Bill is sitting at a table with Monte Zucker, Dean Collins, Don Blair and many of the other great people who changed the industry we call photography today. I know Bill is going to be watching over all of us, and I decided my contribution to thoughts about Bill would best be represented in a letter to him.
Dear Mr. Bill:
I was overwhelmed with sadness hearing the news you had died, but a few days later I remembered something our son said. He doesn’t believe in the sadness that accompanies a funeral. A person’s life should be celebrated and treated with a level of joy for having been in our lives, not tears over moving on.
So, Bill, I’m celebrating your life today and thinking about everything I learned from you during our almost thirty-year friendship and the seven amazing years we worked together.
I remember you telling me once, a year or two after our first fight, that you were sure I was going to replace you and get a new editor. I can’t deny for a second our little argument over editorial did leave me at a loss, but I quickly learned what it meant to be Editor-in-Chief.
You always fought for what you believed in, whether it had something to do with technology moving things along too fast or the right of a completely unknown artist to have their work shown to the world. Over and again, you’d find great images and give those artists space in what was then the biggest magazine in professional photography.
I have so many moments to look back on that simply make me smile. Even Molly, the Wonder Dog, knew you were special as she’d charge into the office every morning and go directly to your desk to start your day washing your face one more time. All I had to say was “Go find Mr. Bill” and she'd be headed down the hall.
I wrote in a text message two days ago…” I wish George, Arlene and I were in the same location so we could be together now.” Jerry Ghionis called us the “Dream Team” – you, George Varanakis, Arlene Evans and me. Well, we were, but it was because of the passion the four of us shared to make WPPI and the magazine the very best. Plus, we had an amazing team of great people backing us up and helping the company grow.
And, whenever we had an idea, if all four of us thought it was great I knew we had a winner. Over and again you helped us move the convention and the magazine in a stronger direction.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but this letter to you is as much for me as for you. Here’s something you might not realize. Bill, what started out as just a working relationship became family. You helped us set a standard in editorial, imaging and education. I loved working with you. I loved arguing with you over images for the cover of the magazine. I loved the way you cared about the industry and in all honesty there was nothing I wouldn’t do for you.
Each year at the awards program we’d fight with you to stick your head out from behind the curtain for a little much-deserved recognition. People would applaud, but I’m not sure anybody understood how much work you put into the awards program, print competition and the entire program of speakers. That night it was always the same routine. We’d head to the vodka bar for that one night we’d all celebrate the completion of one more convention.
Mr. Bill, over and over again you changed lives and became the very best editor in the industry. You set the standard, and we were all privileged to be by your side, learn from you and celebrate with each success.
Well, buddy, I’m going to miss you, but I’m smiling now with minimal tears. You taught me so much and created so many memorable moments. I couldn’t be more proud to say, “Bill Hurter is one of my very best friends.”
I love you buddy and know the day will come when we'll all be sitting around together at that table you’re at right now.
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