Today was a day of tears, and a reality check, as I entered my Facebook page, I was stunned to hear that a photography friend, Chuck Westfall died from his seven year battle with kidney disease.I first met chuck when I worked for Helix Ltd., a professional Chicago camera store that occupied the 325 west Huron St. in Chicago in 1971, some forty seven years ago. Myself who graduated with a photography degree from Southern Illinois University, was struggling to be a photojournalist. with a shoty stint as a photographer for the News Gazette in Champaign Illinois, I found myself heading back to Chicago kiving with my Mom and her husband. I was devastated, but what I found out from so many, and especially my wife, that photography was a hobby, and very few photographers can actually make a living, but still having a passion for being “The man behind the camera”, I was very fortunate to enter the world of photo retail. I started as first taking inventory, worked in the shipping department, and graduated to being a full pledged samera salesman. The world of photography never hear of the word DIGITAL, there were no cell phones, there were cameras, the likes of Canon, Nikon,Leicas, Hasselblad, 4×5 Sinar, Linhoff, Enlargers, Chemicals, and a four letter word that was so precious-“Film”, yes film, all sizes, roll films, particulary 35mm and 120, sheet film, sizes 4×5 and 8×10, and oh yeah, instant Polaroid film. I found myself working in the ultimate toy store, owning a camera also meant you just didn’t own a camera, but you needed a tripod, a good camera strap, and not just one camera bag, but one in every size and color. Not only was I over whelmed also by all the professional lighting equipment, but I meant many of Chicago’s finest photographers. In the Helix building alone their must of been atleast a dozen photographers.
I can remember one day in particular, a young photographer came in to buy some film, he was very personal, and I asked him how is he doing, especially in photography, his name was Chuck Westfall, a graduate of New Trier high school, and he was finishing up on his photography degree at Rochester Institute of Technology, better known as the home of Eastman Kodak, Chuck wanted to know if their were any photo studios hiring any assistants. Well at that time I met a fellow Masonic brother named Sam Hay, who was the photo rep first for Phil Hastings, and David Puffer. I was hanging out at his studio and introduced Chuck to Sam and David. David took a liking to Chuck, and soon Chuck was also entering his journey of wanting to be a commercial photographer, I am sure it did not pay much for Chuck, but he was able to dosome small photo jobs with the guidance of David and another wonderful photographer John Von Dorn. These were happy times for both Chuck and I. I was oin my start of a four deacade journey in photo retail, and Chuck was the “Man Behind The Camera”, however Chuck soon found out that to be a successful shooter, you needed to pay bills, and most of the time wait a very long time to get paid, and to make things worse, your client did not like what you gave him, and he demanded a re-shoot. Chuck was entering his crosswork, of if he really wanted to be a photographer, should he go back to RIT, or just start all over again. I could see his frustration, but being in the same position as he was in, but because of my physical condition, I new that I could never be more than a camera salesman, but Chuck was taller and certainly better looking than me, was perfect to be a photographic representative. I said Chuck, don’t go bsack to RIT, you schould work for Nikon, or Canon., you love photography,n and you don’t have to take photographs, you just have to know about your camera company, make some enquiries, maybe there is camera store you can get a job near where you are living, what the hell, I got my photo gig and you can do it too. And did he do it, Chuck Westfall eventually became Canon’s top technical advisor, traveleling around the world, giving lectures, writing articles, and being a great teacher, friend, brother, husband, and farther, and today he left us, in body and sounds, but certainly not what he left us, life is not just about taking pictures, but defining to yourself what is really important, it is about love, emotion and liking who and what you are. I lost a dear friend, but a Photo Legend who changed so many others lives, and yet I discovered my legacy that you can make a differnce in ome person’s life. I am grateful for being able to tell reflect on my howiemaui.com blog, today to say good by to a very special friend Chuck Westfall, and encourage others to see if they can make a differnce in someone’s elses life.