Hodgepodge by Charlie Hodge – The Golden Handshake

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I am saddened by the surprising news this week that Kelowna Daily Courier photographer extraordinaire Gary Nylander was handed his marching papers last week.

I recognize it is unusual for a columnist from one newspaper to make comment about the activities of another rag’s business, however since I am a 40- plus year veteran of the trade who toiled for both rags as well as numerous others over the years – and a resident of this town – my comments and concerns are valid.

Quite simply, opposition photographer or not, Gary Nylander was (and remains) and outstanding and talented photographer. In my multiple decades of full time and part time newspaper work I can assure readers that there are less than a handful of photogs who could hold a candle to Gary. I always thought of myself as a good photographer – taught by two or three of the best in the field (including my brother) – however my skills were never as honed as Gary’s. I may have won a few provincial and national awards but those numbers paled compared to Nylander’s lengthy brag sheet of accolades.

Aside from his clear and obvious talent with a camera and lens, and his magical ability in the darkroom there are a couple of other factors that made (make) Gary a classy winner.

Gary was always respectful and professional in his job. As any snapper with class will attest, professional etiquette is a trait that ranks huge with peers in the trade. It is something that while can be taught is either embraced by the individual or not. Gary was the consummate gentleman on the beat. Gary never ‘stole a pic’ (snapping a shot that another photog had set up and then run it as their own or ahead of the other photog), and likewise never intentionally ruined another’s shot. Such is easily done and then feigned as accidental, i.e. . stepping in front of another photographer, banging into a competitor at the key moment, or intentionally setting off a flash to screw up the opposition.

I can recall with a chuckle a number of times over the years when Gary and I would attend the same event and would then roll out the Canadian habit of telling each other to ‘go first’ with a shoot. Sometimes that was strategic not wanting to give up our ‘idea’ for the better picture and sometimes because we had simply not figured out what we wanted to do. Regardless – there was always a common courtesy and respect for one another. He was never lazy and always cordial; competitive but never antagonistic or rude.

Gary also consistently brought dignity and class to the job, never embarrassing a subject matter or making sure that he put the news aspect of the photo ahead of the human element. Gary never left a victim behind following one of his photo sessions. That is a rare trait – especially in the competitive world of journalism and particularly in the past decade or two of ‘shoot first ask questions or care about it later’  attitude of news reporting.

When I look back over my years of journalism a few names of quality photographers stick out: Peter Rusland  (Vancouver Island), Rainer Ziegenhagen (Kelowna), Sean Connor (Kelowna) and  Jamie Bowman (Kamloops). Without question Gary Nylander sits high in that crew. And none of them lasted as long in the trenches as Gary.

I am confident the reason Gary was ‘let go’ was financial – a trend that is happening in newspapers everywhere. Whether that is due to the trend and changes in how our news is being delivered or not I can only guess. What I do know is that in a world of greed and profit – quality journalism has been thinned out by the desire of making money. Journalists have long been treated with a far lower respect or priority by newspaper chains compared to the advertising reps. It shows … almost everywhere.

That being said, a picture truly does speak a thousand words and financially a good photographer saves a lot of money in filling space than a reporter whapping out yards of copy. There is little economic logic to this decision.

Since retiring from full time journalism many years ago I had continued to marvel at Gary’s consistency and  dedication to the job. I am shocked at his departure and am adamant that this marks a dark day in local media  history.

You will be missed Gary. Thank you for your  class and creativeness.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.

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