Archive | September, 2013

Saying Goodbye to “Novo” – Sept 7, 1951 – Aug 15, 2013

24 Sep

The first time I had a one-on-one meeting with the late, great Tim Novoselski, I was fairly certain I was about to be fired.

I was 22 years old and a new employee – less than six months — with Miramar Publishing, the trade magazine company that he and his fantastic wife, Denise, owned.

The situation leading up to this ominous meeting had unfolded the day before. I had been excitedly meeting with my editors to discuss my first cover story. I was scheduled to travel the following week to the metropolis of Sandy, Utah.

“So, will the photographer meet me there?” I asked.

The answer was silent but jarring:  Two editors in chief, one associate and two other reporters stared at me. They said not a word. They’d all been there longer than I had….and obviously knew something I didn’t.

You are the photographer,” one said. She was the one who had hired me.

I felt a flush go through me. Like a pre-fainting feeling.

“All I have is an instant,” I explained, incredulous. If was a first-generation point-and-shoot 35 mm. Not cover photo equipment. Not even close.

“Did you lie when you interviewed?” she asked. Straight to the point, that one.

I was floored. Near tears. Never would I lie in a job interview!

Sheepishly, voice quivering, I replied, “You didn’t ask me about photography.”

“I’ll be right back.” She stood up and left the room.

Good lord, where is she going? What is going to happen?

Awkwardly, the rest of the crew made small talk about Utah and how to work the state alcoholic beverage system’s rules to get served a cocktail in a hotel restaurant.

I could have used a cocktail right about then.

When she returned, she had my personnel file in her hand and was smiling. Was it an evil smile or an embarrassed smile?

“Well, it looks like I skipped that entire page in your interview,” she said, holding up a sheet with typed questions but no writing. “You’re off the hook.”

I was relieved for about five seconds.
“But what about the photos?” I asked.

“Let me think about it,” my boss, the one with the Utah cocktail knowledge, said.

I spent some time that night freaking out. Obviously, they needed a photo-journalist, I reasoned. I would be fired. Would I get severance? Could I make my rent and car payment? I would have to move back to Northern California. Back into my parents’ home. A failure. I barely slept.

The next day, I was told to report to the office of the co-publisher, Tim Novoselski. I watched the clock until the appointed time and made my way over.

“Come on in,” he said, opening the door to his office. “So, you snuck your way in here, huh?”

He laughed. Thank you, Tim, for laughing.

“I guess I did,” I replied, meekly, not sure if I should smile or nod in solemn agreement.

No time for soul searching. Tim jumped right to the solution.

In the next 30 minutes, Tim gave me a crash course in photography. We discussed F stops and lighting, bracketing and framing. Obviously, over time, I’ve lost the ability to perfectly quote his instruction. But having told this story many times, I feel fairly confident this recollection captures the spirit of Novo’s Photo 101.

“The most important thing I can tell you is this,” he explained. “Don’t look around and say, ‘This is a great scene,’ and then put the camera to your eye to capture it. Put the camera to your eye first. See what it sees. Does it tell the story you want to tell? Is the subject of your shot the first thing you notice? Your eyes lie to you. They’ll fill in what’s not there. The camera sees only what’s there, and it will tell your eye the truth.”

At the time, I had no idea just how wise those words were, and how many times I would call on them in my reporter’s journey that has included the snapping of thousands of photos.

At the time, I was just grateful for his kindness — Grateful that this busy man (always walking fast on his way to do something, as I recall!), this boss man, would take the time out of his day to reassure and equip a budding reporter, first job out of college, scared to death that she’d be fired.

His last words to me that day were, “Take as much film as you need!”

I think I shot six rolls of Kodachrome and three of E6 Slide Film. Thankfully, one of them was good enough for the cover (I am still looking for that magazine cover!)

When Tim was first diagnosed with cancer a few years back, we shared several emails back and forth. As a cancer survivor myself (thyroid, 2007), we connected on a new level – more as peers than as mentor-student. I was able to share this recollection with him, and to tell him how much I appreciated his graciousness then – and how much I still do.

Just a few hours from now, I’ll join many former colleagues, and the phenomenal Denise Novoselski, to say goodbye to the beloved and larger-than-life Tim. Then, I suppose, it will seem real. But it doesn’t really just yet. I look forward to talking about old times with some of the old gang. I know we will share laughter and tears. We will share Novo-stories, and the ways in which we will always carry Tim’s legacy with us.

From creating the company that gave me my first job – where I met my husband and love of my life (still going strong after two kids and 25 years of marriage) – to the many emails, Facebook photos and stories we shared in the recent years, and all the workplace moments in between, I have the deepest gratitude for having known Tim. I am so sad that he is gone.

I will see you in the lens, my friend.