Earlier this week Richard “Dick” Hallberg longtime photographer at The Post Journal passed away. In an article published in Wednesday’s paper “An Eye for Art” several of his former colleagues reminisced about working with Hallberg and his talent as a photojournalist. As part of that article, a 1990 interview with the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation was referenced. The referenced interview was the feature, along with Mr. Hallberg’s iconic photographs, of the Foundation’s 1989 Annual Report.
In memory of Dick Hallberg we have provided a reprint of the original article “The Essence of Chautauqua Region as Seen Through the Lens of Dick Hallberg” along with the full version of the 1989 Annual Report featuring Mr. Hallberg’s photographs.
CRCF Salutes Area Chronicler
Published 1989, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation Annual Report
“Every picture has to tell a story,” exclaimed Richard Hallberg, P-J photographer, in a recent conversation in his home. “One has to separate different things, but that’s part of the creativity involved.”
For better than four decades, Richard’s creative eye and mind have focused on the unusual – unusual in the sense that a special quality is captured by camera which is often overlooked by other observers. “When I worked under Bert Gustavson, who was head photographer when I became a member of the photo department, I noticed that he was always looking for something different. This rubbed off on me,” Richard continued, “and I shall always be grateful to him for this insight which I seemingly have inherited.” Richard recalls that his first boss always strove for capturing something different with his camera because he felt that most newspapers produced the same thing over and over again. “I remember him saying to me one time, ‘Such folks are not in ruts, they are in trenches’.”
Richard began his association with The Post-Journal in 1946 as a part-time employee in the Mail Room. “I was a senior in High School at the time and around graduation I learned that there would be an opening in the Photo Department. Naturally, I applied.”
Richard received his first camera from his parents when a young lad. A neighbor taught him about development of film. “When I learned that, I guess I became hooked on the hobby,” he said. “From then on, there was no question about what I wanted to do for my life’s work.”
Richard finds newspaper work most gratifying. “There is such a variety of subjects,” he declared. “One is not confined to a single activity.” He likes to photograph children, animals, and scenery.
His assignments have run the gamut, subject-wise. He followed Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz around when they visited Jamestown 35 years ago. Heading the list of dignitaries whom he has photographed is the King of Sweden, H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf. He recalls that the F.B.I. had to clear even this assignment to photograph the royal visitor in April 1976. Other prominent personalities have included former New York Governors Nelson Rockefeller and Averill Harriman, the late Robert Kennedy, our current governor, Mario Cuomo, and Jamestown’s own Roger Tory Peterson. He has always found his subjects friendly and cooperative.
Any event presents a challenge. Richard confesses to being a Bills fan and has been seen at many of the games with his camera. “But you know,” he observed, “you actually don’t watch the game when you have your camera in hand – you’re watching for a particular telling shot. One is always thinking of composition in these moments,” he continued. “My wife tells me that I’m a totally different person when I have a special assignment. Probably this is due to the fact that I am thinking about the composition of a picture. The creative process has begun.”
One of his greatest frustrations is to arrive on an assignment and to find that everything is supposedly in place for him. “Obviously, they become disconcerted if I do not welcome their proposal; but I want a moment to study my subject, to study the available props and actually, compose the picture.”
Richard recalls an embarrassing moment when he began his photographic career. He relates that he was sent to Celoron to catch a shot of the wrestling match. “In those days, flash bulbs had celluloid wrapped about them, and this one popped of itself and fragments went flying out over the mat. This was so embarrassing,” he confided. “They had to stop the match long enough to sweep it all away.”
Richard has been cited by the Associated Press in its annual contests and has won first place in the State for a feature shot taken at the N.Y. State Fair. Some of his photos have appeared in Ebony and People magazines and twice the New York Daily News used two of his pictures as a cover photo – the one time for a shot of a snow storm in Dewittville and the other time of the flood in Fluvanna.
He was not a little surprised when he learned that a Swedish newspaper carried his photo of an air crash at Napoli a few years ago. Recently, the St. Petersburg Times of Florida used one of his pictures as the cover photo for their Business magazine insert.
Like many others serving the public, his work is not necessarily confined to a prescribed period of day. He recalls being awakened at 2 a.m. a few years ago to head out to Ripley to take a picture of motorists having to seek refuge in the Ripley Central School gymnasium because of the impassibility on the Thruway. “Most of the time I couldn’t see half of the road,” he chuckled, “and when I got there, the immediate question was ‘Did they open the road’?” He drove back at daybreak and his photos appeared in that day’s edition.
“Anyone can push a button on a camera,” Richard noted, “but most do not work in a dark room so that they know what can be cropped, burned, or dodged.” (In photographer’s language, ‘burned’ means to darken the background to highlight the light subject and ‘dodged’ means to lessen the brightness). Richard is firmly of the opinion that one can make or break a picture in the dark room.
His skill emerges when he can capture the usual in an unusual manner. His photos do, indeed, chronicle the moods, the accomplishments and the scenic splendor of this corner of New York State. Richard records with lens what a former colleague, Jennie Vimmerstedt, recorded with the written word during her 48-year tenure with The Post-Journal, and what Jamestown’s morning man, Jim Roselle, at WJTN, records verbally over the air waves. They’re an unbeatable trio. “The pictures are all there,” Richard alleged as our conversation drew to a close. “I believe that our Creator has created them, and I am grateful that I may capture some of these beautiful scenes and incidental happenings on camera.”