Gerry's long time friend and mentor John Page passed away yesterday. It was a very sad day for both of us. Here is a great story the News and Record ran about John and his long career as a photojournalist. Take a moment to enjoy the life and times of one of the great photographers. Not many of these guys left anymore. Journalism seems to be dying along with all of these greats......
Photographer John Page dies, but his legacy remains
GREENSBORO — He joined the Greensboro Daily News and the Greensboro Record in 1963, and logged his last assignment Oct. 29, 1997.
He saw photography go from the 4x5 Speed Graphic to 35 mm to digital cameras.
He videotaped the Woolworth sit-ins in 1960 for WFMY-TV, and the Klan-Nazi shootings for the Daily News in 1979.
And he schooled a whole generation of photographers with gruff encouragement and a big hearty laugh.
John Page, who spent a lifetime capturing images of Greensboro life, died Monday morning. He was 75. Forbis & Dick Funeral Home on West Friendly Avenue is handling the arrangements, which are incomplete.
Page’s most famous photo was of the McCrary twins, who also wrestled under the name, the McGuire twins. They were immortalized as the World’s Heaviest Twins, weighing 750 and 720 pounds. On a tour promoting Honda motorcycles, Page shot a photo of the twins riding away that was reprinted in Life magazine and served as the back cover of the Guinness Book of World Records for years.
“I remember him telling me about making that picture,” said Gerry Broome, a former News & Record photographer who now works for the Associated Press in Raleigh. “He’d shot a bunch of pictures, but none of them felt right. It wasn’t until the moment they drove away that he realized, that’s the picture, right there.”
It represents one of many lessons he learned from Page — never give up.
Page was never intimidated by the young sharpshooters who came to the paper as many of his colleagues left or retired, and he was generous in sharing his knowledge.
“He got along great with everybody,” said News & Record photographer Joe Rodriguez. “I was one of the first young guys to come in (to join the staff), and he was very welcoming.”
When Broome joined the staff, Page offered to share his darkroom with him.
“John was like my father away from home,” Broome said. “He gave me more real-life lessons than any one person in this world. Whether it was a technical question or life question, John always had an answer.”
Many of those lessons were imparted over lunch at Your House, his favorite restaurant.
“The first order of the day was deciding when to go Code One — which meant going to lunch,” recalls Rob Brown, News & Record director of photography. “He’d say, ‘Come on, let’s go to the House.’ But he never ate anything. He’d just smoke and have a cup of coffee.”
In an era when restaurants asked, “Smoking or nonsmoking,” he’d reply, “Heavy smoking.”
Page loved shooting photos of children, but he hated shooting sports, said his daughter, Honour Jump.
“When I used to cover soccer, I remember how he complained the whole time he was there,” says former News & Record reporter Elizabeth House. “But he turned in some of the best soccer pictures we ever had.”
He gave all his colleagues nicknames. Rob Brown became “Rog,” Lynn Hey was “Hey Lynda,” and Scott Hoffmann was Herb. He also nicknamed every photo intern, and that would be the only name they were called all summer long.
At work, he was always talking about Ernie (his wife, Ernestine) and Honour, his only child. At home, he shared stories about his fellow photographers, Jump said.
“Daddy loved the guys, he really did,” she said.
He was also the best dad a girl ever had, she says.
She was proud to say her father was a photographer for the newspaper, and she loved being his subject when he needed a picture of a kid on a swing, or to photograph a school class.
“He was so easygoing,” Jump said. “He never did anything bad to anyone in his whole life. He was great fun, a great guy, and he spoiled me rotten. Rotten.”
Jump remembers overhearing him tell her mother he was going to shoot a protest march, and was worried about the possibility of people bringing guns. Jump was at Four Seasons Mall when they announced over the loudspeaker that there had been a shooting at a downtown protest. She went home in tears, worried that her father might be hurt.
Page had chosen to photograph what became known as the Klan-Nazi shooting from the top of a parking garage, and was unhurt.
“His level of experience — there weren’t many situations he hadn’t been in,” Broome said. “He really ran the gamut of our business during his career.”
Rodriguez was most impressed by how easily Page made the transition to digital photography, which even the younger generation was resisting.
“He embraced it quickly and fully,” Rodriguez said. “And he made me look at it in a different way. Film certainly had better quality, but he pointed out all the things digital gave us the ability to do — like shoot a picture and transmit it from our car.”
After he retired, Page cared for his wife, who became ill and died in 2005. He only used a camera to shoot family photos of Honour, her husband and the grandbabies, she said. A coin and gun collector, he read a lot of books about U.S. history, and was learning how to speak fluent Spanish in his last years.
He died, Jump says, of stubbornness.
“He was so worried about inconveniencing me that he refused to come live with us,” she said Monday afternoon. “He was fiercely independent, but he needed to be watched.”
He fell, as she had long feared, and couldn’t get to the phone. In the seven hours before a neighbor found him, he had a heart attack. He had also been suffering from pneumonia, and COPD from a lifetime of smoking.
“He had a living will, and refused any kind of treatment,” she said. “He didn’t want to fight, and I respect him for that.”
He already had everything planned for his funeral and money set aside.
Before he became unable to talk, he said, “Now now, Honour, you better not be sad. You know I miss your momma, and I want to be with her again. I’ve also had a very long, very good life.”
“He made it so easy for me,” Jump said. “It was a blessing that I had him for as long as I had him, and he made it as easy as he could for me.”
His second family, the fellowship of photographers, feel the same way.
“When the big man upstairs made old John Page, he threw away the mold,” said Gerry Broome. “He meant the world to me.”
Contact Susan Ladd at (336) 373-7006, and follow @susankladd on Twitter