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Opinion: A thank you

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | August 3, 2022 6:05 AM

I’m not going to lie to you and say that former Hungry Horse News editor Brian Kennedy and I got along fabulously. Because often, we did not see eye-to-eye.

But he did take a chance on me — a photographer from a daily outside of Buffalo, New York — when many other western newspaper editors would not.

Right after college my hope was always to move out West. I had grown up on a dairy farm in Western New York, but while I liked cows, I liked camping and fishing way more.

So applied for as many jobs in the West as I could.

I fished as much as I could and spent a lot of time in the woods in my youth, which was odd because no one in family really spent any time in the woods.

I can recall my old man booting me out of the house because all I wanted to do was fish.

So when Kennedy called me in March 1998 I jumped at the chance to come to Montana and be a photographer. Plus there was a river that ran right through town.

We had a nice house back east and two small kids and another on the way.

When I told my wife we were moving to Montana she sat in a chair and cried.

The pay wasn’t great, but we got by and even though I only worked for Kennedy for about nine months, he gave me a sizable raise just a few months into the job.

My mother helped me with a house down payment and the rest, as they say is history.

Back in those days, being a photographer was a laborious process. You went to an assignment, shot it on film, came back, developed the film and then had to scan (i.e digitize it) for print.

I spent about 20 hours in a darkroom a week.

One time I fried almost all the negatives from Night of Lights when I was developing them. I thought Kennedy would kill me, but he just asked if there were any I could salvage and the answer was yes.

They were a little grainy, but they worked.

Every week I would scan in the negatives of what I thought was my best work, and then Kennedy would stand behind my desk and choose them.

I remember one week when I showed him I what I thought was a pretty good selection, including a picture of a little back bear up a pole that was just about to get poked with a tranquilizer dart on a pole by a biologist.

Kennedy looked at the pics and said, “What else you got?”

At the time, I thought I was going to strangle him, but a few years later I used it at a gag during a slideshow I gave for the Glacier Mountaineering Society.

When I showed a pic that got an oooo or ahh from the crowd, I’d say, “What else you got?”

Kennedy was in the audience and even let out a laugh.

Kennedy taught me quite a few things about photography, light and color. I had no formal training in photography — I was an English major in college.

But the thing he taught me the most was how to take your lumps and he thickened up my skin quite a bit in those nine months we worked together.

And for that, I can say nothing but thank you.

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