My best photo from five years at the Ottawa Herald was not printed in the Herald— not until today, nearly 50 years later.
It is of an adorably grubby 3 year-old, Raymond Tegtmeyer III. He is eating a fudgesicle which seems to have gotten all over him. One drip falls from his elbow.
In this story, I recall how I came to take that photo, why it was not printed in the Herald and how it came to be printed in today's Herald.
From 1973 to 1978, I took hundreds of photos which were printed in the Herald. Some were of significant news events. Many accompanied stories I had written. Others were of regular folks doing regular things. Many of those were of children because our readers liked seeing their kids in the paper. Parents were likely to buy extra copies for the grandparents, etc. Thus, photos of kids were good for business.
On this particular day, I wanted to find a photo showing the summer heat and how people were dealing with it. I found it on Cherry Street. It was of four kids, each eating a fudgsicle, sitting on a stoop in front of a Wonder Bread sign at Bill's, a mom-and-pop grocery store. I chatted with the kids and asked whether I could take their picture. Fine with them. As I was ready to leave, I got an idea. I went into Bill's and got each another fudgsicle. They had never had two in one hour. I watched as they slurped while it was melting. I moved three of the kids aside so I could focus on Raymond. I knew he would be my prize photo.
Back at the office, I developed the film and showed the negatives to the boss, suggesting we go with the little boy by himself.
"Why would we use a photo of one kid, pleasing only one set of parents," he asked, "When we could use an equally good photo of four kids, pleasing four sets of parents?" He won. I lost and have stewed about it ever since.
It was a few months ago that I retrieved boxes of paraphernalia which I had stored at my parents farm in north central Kansas. There, amidst dozens of photos I had taken, was the one of the grubby little boy. What if, I told myself, I can finally get that photo in print at the Herald?
Inspiring me were the three courses in photo history I'd had at KU in the 1980s. There was a groundbreaking project, a rephotographic survey. Photographers had found 100-year-old photographs of the land and rephotographed those scenes, pointing out the physical, and social changes. I could do that by rephotographing Raymond today holding my photo of him from 47 years earlier. My very own rephotographic project.
Two problems. I didn't know whether he still existed and whether the Herald would publish it.
I did find Raymond on Facebook, now 50, and still living in Ottawa. When I asked Raymond if I could photograph him today, holding my photo of him from 47 years earlier he told me to, "Go for it." The Herald, too, told me to "Go for it".
About a month ago, I organized this photographic shoot. Rather, this re-photographic shoot. My hope was for this photo to be at Bill's. It was demolished years ago. So, I borrowed the nice house where Bill's used to be. Gathered were Raymond, his mother, his girlfriend and two of his grandsons, Raymond V, Brantley, and my friend Ray from Kansas City. I took extra photos of Raymond with his two grandsons, who look like their grandfather, minus the drip.
I asked Raymond if it was OK to refer to him, in my story about all of this, as "grubby."
"Heck yes," he said. "I was a grubby kid. I'm still grubby. But now, I'm a grubby old man."