Sunday, December 1, 2013

A toast -- and thanks -- to Bill Riggs

Every once in a while, when you're not paying attention, someone who has made an impression on you in some way, whether small or large, vanishes from your life in an instant. We all have experienced it.

I noted one such instance a year and a half ago -- two people, in fact, Deborah Wagner and R. Dodge Woodson -- in a post here. It happened again last week, on Thanksgiving Day, when a fellow photo club member, Bill Riggs, passed away after a several-months battle with medical issues that began with a grand mal seizure and were compounded when doctors discovered cancer in his abdomen.

Riggs kept a low profile -- you might even have characterized him as a lurker -- in his early years of membership in the Indy Meetup Photo Club. But in the past two years, he emerged as a vital and cherished contributor. He had a dry demeanor, and if you managed to get him to smile or laugh, you felt like you accomplished something. Underneath that tough facade, he had a passion for the craft and a desire to help those in need.

Two Decembers ago, he was the club's lead photographer for two IMUPC activities. One was the setup and operation of the club's station at one of the Indianapolis locations of the annual global Help Portrait project, an endeavor in which photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists come together in communities to provide free holiday portraits to the underprivileged. The other was the club's photo booth at the annual Old World Christmas Market bazaar at Joy of All Who Sorrow Church, located at 16th and Delaware streets in the Old Northside Neighborhood of Indianapolis.

Just a couple months before that, he joined other IMUPC members and members of the Indiana Photographic Society to photo document special needs individuals attending and enjoying the annual Handicapable Camp in Bradford Woods in Morgan County, Ind. In the past year and a half, he was a key component, along with Greg Mitchell, in jump-starting an effort by IMUPC to offer club members some structured opportunities to learn, improve and practice portraiture skills in a relaxed atmosphere. I was among club members who sat in on the first sessions; Greg started off the instruction, and Bill followed up with video lesson reinforcement, practice opportunities and coaching. Both did a lot to open my eyes to nuances needed to feel more comfortable in handling portraiture. I owe much gratitude to both of them for that.

Included with the text of this post are a few pictures I took of Bill in some of the activities mentioned above. The image leading off the post and the first four below were taken at that 2011 Help Portrait activity. When Bill dressed up in the cheerful Santa garb and interacted with adults and children alike -- including helping the young girl in the lead photo learn more about her compact camera -- well, it was the first time I saw that side of Bill.

IMUPC created an album of these and other Riggs photos, which you can find at the club website by following the link in this sentence.

Above and below: Bill was sitting for some practice shots as IMUPC members tested camera settings (at first we used Bill's camera, the original Canon 5D, before switching out our own during the day), and the lighting for proper exposure and white balance (coloring) at Help Portrait 2011, held at the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation, 964 N. Pennsylvanis St, Indianapolis. Bill probably would have appreciated the information I give next: The candid shot above was taken with available light, which is why the coloring on the face is a little different than the one taken below, which was taken with flash (I think from the pop-up on my Canon 7D) ... and which is why you see the shadow on the left and the reflection of light next to Bill's cap.

Above: Bill talking shop -- well, information sharing, actually -- with the same girl you see taking his picture in the lead photo of this post. 

Above: At the end of the Help Portrait 2011 shoot, photographers who were still around posed for a group picture. That's Bill poking his head into the frame on the far right. In a bit of irony (deliberate or not), he was standing immediately in front of one of the strobes used to light the picture. Perhaps he was trying to teach us another lesson ... 

Above: Bill resting during a break at the club's photo portrait booth at the 2011 Old World Christmas Market at the Joy of All Who Sorrow Church, 1516 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis. The T-shirt he wore reveals his punsy sense of humor; the top hat he sports was from the wardrobe of period garb that portrait subjects were invited to wear for the photographs.

Above and below: Also at the Old World Christmas Market, Bill converses (above) with club organizer Carol Thompson and (below) joins club member Hershel Saylor in browsing some of the items on display in the market area. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments on Bill. I met Bill about 2 years ago in a real estate class and we became fast friends. We would meet about every 6 weeks with others in our group-just to connect over lunch or dinner. I will truly miss my friend Bill and our emails to each other. God bless him and may he rest in peace.