Photographer's Farewell

Andy Towle

Andy Towle Photo by Pia Wyer.

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Jerry Garcia sang it best: “What a long, strange, trip it’s been.” Amen.

Before I was hired as the photographer at the Payson Roundup, I worked at the White Mountain Independent in Show Low, on and off, for 10 years. It was one of those ‘I love you, I hate you,’ relationships and I finally said something in a public forum that pushed me out the door for good. This turned out to be a good thing.

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Andy Towle standing by his Featured Artist Exhibit at Down the Street Art Gallery on Friday, September 6, 2013. His work will be on display through September.

By now, I was used to getting fired and just rolled with it. Before getting fired, I’d made friends with Richard Haddad, the publisher of the Roundup at that time. I asked him about a position, but he had just hired a photographer. He said if anything changed, he would keep me in mind.

I found work as a graphic designer and layout person for a real estate magazine in Pinetop-Lakeside on a part-time basis. That suited me just fine. Then I got a phone call.

Autumn Phillips, the editor of the Roundup at the time, called me while I was working at the graphic design job. I almost dropped my phone.

She wanted to know if I was still interested in the job at the Roundup. You know the rest, sort of.

Of all the photo-jobs, graphic design positions, photo-editor gigs, and restoration and retouching work I’ve had the pleasure to accomplish, being at the Roundup has been the best photographic experience of my working life in Arizona.

I have never been so welcomed anywhere as I have been here. The people I have worked with and for, have been amazing. I go just about anywhere in town and am welcomed, sometimes with a feverish handshake by someone who wants to grind an axe, but mostly by people who want to tell me how much they have enjoyed my work. You don’t get that everywhere.

I know it’s part of the small town flavor that comes with knowing people and them being familiar with you because they see you all the time at some event or other.

It is a kind of juice injected into your blood by doing a good job, liking the people you are shooting and being a small part of their lives. Sometimes there have been assignments I had no desire to shoot and have actually tried to get out of; until I got there.

Those jobs almost always turned out to be the best ones. There has been something about doing the assignments that took me over; and I lost myself in the moment. My ‘moments’ have passed. It is time to let go.

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Capturing the action at the 2013 Payson Pro Rodeo.

I’ve seen kids grow up as I’ve shot them over the years. I’ve cried at their graduations and welcomed them into adulthood. They’ve come back to me, hugged me warmly and thanked me for acknowledging them. Even people who don’t like their picture taken let me shoot them (well, some of them, anyway).

I’ve photographed tragedy and been thanked for being there, so families have a keepsake of a loved one who passed too soon. There have been triumphs too.

People have asked for pictures of their moment in a spot of light. I have given myself away many times. It is a desire to let people know life is for giving, and knowing you have presented someone with a small portion of their event, to be carried with them forever, has given me a sense of accomplishment and in this field, that is a rare moment.

There are a few people here who have changed my life. Oh sure, everyone changes your life in some way. However, some people change your thinking, your lifestyle, your perspective, and enhance your creative outlets. Those people I will miss dearly. Those of you on this short list know who you are. Thank you for being there.

Strapped between two worlds (a house in Linden and working and living in Payson) for the past six years, it has been a struggle to remain whole and secure in who I am.

It has been a conflicted life and at times, a paralyzing one. It is time to let go — of Payson, of my camera, and the people whom I have been close to.

Thank you for the experience, the joys and sorrows, the laughter, excitement, the rush of adrenaline and the beauty of your hearts, souls and smiles.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite photos, and a salutation usually saved for close friends and relatives.

Be well,

Andy

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