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Helping a friend and veteran leave a legacy

By Penn Hansa

Bruce Roscoe, CPP, orchestrated a portrait session of his best friend, Joe Rowe, that he'll remember for ages. As a photographer who served in the Vietnam War, taught workshops all over the United States and has been named as one of the top photographers in Arizona, Roscoe has had his share of photographic experiences. But this was the only shoot that he could give credit to fate for making it happen. "It could only have been divine intervention to have everything work out the way that it did," Roscoe said. "It was that incredible."

In a way, the photo shoot was 58 years in the making: Roscoe and Rowe have been friends since they were eight years old. "If I didn't see him in 10 years and then I saw him again, it would be just like yesterday," said Roscoe. "Nothing would change."

The origins of their friendship are a little hazy to both. "We probably met after getting in a fight with each other," Roscoe guessed. But they both recall the childhood they spent together on the East Coast. They sailed, surfed and snorkeled together at the beach, and spent hours in the forest climbing and exploring.

"We had it great growing up," Roscoe remembered. "We didn't know how poor we were. We bought a bike and it was Joe's and my bike. So he'd have it for a day, and then I'd ride it for a day, like a family bike."

When they finished high school in 1967, Rowe joined the Marines, and Roscoe decided to postpone college to join the army. The army recruiter asked if he had any special skills, and Roscoe told him that he wanted to be a photographer. It was the first thing that came to mind.

"My parents gave me a Brownie Bullet camera when I was younger, and I loved it," Roscoe said. "I thought I was going to travel and take pictures of kings and queens."

That wasn't quite what he ended up doing. After he went to school in the military to be trained as a combat photographer, his first orders were to go to Alaska.

But it was just a mistake - he was actually supposed to be in Vietnam.

During their service in Vietnam from 1967-68, Roscoe and Rowe never saw each other, and only had vague ideas of where the other was. When they returned, they were changed people. Both suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It was just different. We had our issues. We never knew what life was going to be like in a warzone. We changed, not for the good or the bad. We just came back as good as we could be," Roscoe said.

For years, Roscoe didn't touch a camera. "I always had a love for photography, but because of the memories I had associated with a camera, I had to be ok with myself before I got back into it," he said.  When he eventually returned to the art, portraiture became his specialty.

"I think why I got into portraiture is because some of the pictures I took overseas and some of the ways people's faces looked told a story. And I thought, Well, you know what - if I can learn how to capture faces in a storytelling way, that's what I need to do. I need to start capturing people and telling a story with their face."

Roscoe ended up in Arizona and joined PPA in 2008. He became a Certified Professional Photographer in 2010, focusing on photographing the elderly.

"There's just so much character in their faces. In young people, you don't have the wrinkles, the character lines, the things that show how much time you've been in this world," Roscoe explained. "For these people who are grandparents, I want to pull a character out of them to leave a legacy for the younger generations."

As they lived their lives on separate American coasts - Roscoe in the west, Rowe in the east - they stayed in touch through their families and the occasional phone call. "Joe's mom was like my mom. I'd find out from her how he was doing, and she would tell him how I was doing," Roscoe said.

And then one day, Roscoe got a call from his friend Joe. Rowe told him he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, which his doctor said had been caused by Agent Orange, one of the herbicides and defoliants the U.S. military used as part of the herbicidal warfare program Operation Ranch Hand. The effects of the spraying affect both the Vietnamese and Americans as terrible remnants from a war that no one wants to remember.

Shortly after hearing the news, Roscoe left for Rhode Island to take Rowe's portrait. It wasn't a question of obligation, just a sense of duty to his friend and those who loved him. "I was trying to create Joe's final image for his family," Roscoe said.

He called the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Wakefield, and they graciously allowed Roscoe to use their hall for a temporary studio. But it left the question of lighting equipment, things that Roscoe couldn't bring from Arizona for the session. So he did an online search for photographers near Providence and came across Chris Garrison's studio. Roscoe emailed him and explained what he was trying to accomplish, and asked to borrow his gear. Without hesitation, Garrison heagreed to share his studio's equipment.

"I didn't know him before this email," Roscoe said. "I asked him why he would let me, a complete stranger, borrow his equipment and he told me, 'You know, Bruce, I've had people help me out when I needed them. I'm just trying to return the favor.'"

Fellow PPA member Roger Salls from Roger Salls Photography, who had attended one of Roscoe's photography workshops, came from Connecticut with a makeup artist to help with the shoot. Roscoe, recognizing the importance of the event, also contacted the Providence Journal for a reporter to cover their story.

Joe Rowe.jpg

The shoot only took a little more than an hour. Rowe arrived and spent an hour with the makeup artist, then Roscoe started doing his job. The Providence Journal sent a reporter, who was also a Vietnam veteran, to interview Rowe. It was as if all the stars had aligned. Everyone who was there that day was there for Rowe and to help create an image that would capture his character. "I felt like a movie star," Rowe said to his friend. "It lifted my spirits, and we had lots of fun."

It was a highly emotional shoot for Roscoe, who realized that this would be the last portrait he would take of his friend. "It is crushing to be losing one of the people you can really talk to without having any problems," he said. "There's not a lot of people you can call your best friend, and Joe is one of mine."

Rowe, who works with PeaceTrees Vietnam to raise money for schools and libraries in Vietnamese villages, asked his friend to help make his last wish come true: to see through the completion of a library in the village of Mo O, close to where Rowe was stationed in the war.

Thinking back on the shoot, Roscoe couldn't believe that it all happened so perfectly. After all, if he didn't have the venue, the lighting, or the assistant and makeup artist, the final image wouldn't have been as meaningful as it is for both him and Rowe. "I find it interesting that you can get photographers from all over the country together, and you can make something happen," he said. "Nobody got any money from it. There wasn't any incentive. They were just doing it to help."

The ties of friendship and kinship, he realized, were stronger than he could have ever imagined.


Lisa Asp, CPP, owner of Tangerine House of Design in Edina, MN, was recently one of the first-ever winners of a Polaroid Prestige Award at the Northern Lights regional competition in St. Paul. Polaroid is supporting the professional photography industry with six new print competitions at PPA state and regional conventions. The Polaroid Prestige Awards are awarded to images that represent elite photographs and digital art in three categories: Portrait, Wedding and Illustrative.


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PPA member D. Brent Walton, Cr.Photog., CPP, recently wrote and published 25 Things Business Owners Do To Undermine Their Business and how to avoid and correct them. 

This is a common sense book for business owners and people planning to start their own business. If you already own a business, this book can help you remedy a myriad of common errors. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to avoid making big mistakes that can put them out of business in an alarmingly short time. 

The book is intended to be used as a workbook to help you establish business goals and to follow up on them. Each chapter has action items and it is recommended you use the space in the book to record your action items, target dates and completion dates. 
Walton wrote the book for all business owners, but his experiences as owner of photography by db walton comes through in many of the book's examples.

"This book is a wonderful guide for the small business owner, easy to understand, easy to follow and it provides specific details on how to use the Internet to establish your business as one that is honest, competent, committed and professional," said Elizabeth Walton. "It helps small business owners recognize several common mistakes early in the game, and hopefully avoid the consequences of many errors that inhibit business growth. It is written clearly, compactly, with numerous examples (some of them quite funny!) I highly recommend it!"

PPA member, Super Monday instructor and recent CPP recipient, Dave Goldman, has been named a CPP Liaison for the state of North Carolina.

"Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) was a huge accomplishment for me! Passing the CPP exam and image submission process was incredibly difficult. I now hold a designation that less than 8% of the photographers worldwide hold," stated Goldman. "I also now know that I have the necessary skill set to be professionally recognized by my peers as a Certified Professional Photographer. My clients always love my work, but it takes the recognition to a whole new level when it comes from the industry itself. Working towards the CPP has given me the ability and confidence to create strong images under any conditions and I can produce consistent, repeatable results each and every time."

Dave's passion for teaching inspired him to go above and beyond becoming a CPP to become the first and only state Liaison for North Carolina in Charlotte.

"I love to teach and I wanted to give back to the photography community. Most people have no idea where to turn for learning and they end up at local meet-up groups. These groups are okay when you are starting in the [photography] business," said Dave. "I get very motivated when I see beginners aspire to become certified and I can now help them achieve that. I hope to raise the bar and educate other photographers through workshops and hands-on classes."

Dave has a reason to be motivated--becoming a Certified Professional Photographer has made an significant difference in his business.

"Most photographers claim that certification means nothing to their clients; however in my case that is far from the truth. Would you use a first-year resident as a doctor because you can save a few dollars on an operation or use a specialist recognized by his peers in a particular profession? Certification shows that you took the time to learn about what you are doing and how you perform to a higher standard," said Dave. "Each client that comes to my studio asks me about the very visible certificate on the wall. I explain the difference between CPPs and every-day photographers with a camera and educate them on the investment they are about to make. Certification makes it a critical difference."

View some of Dave's Certification passing images below and if you are interested in pursuing the certification program, here are some easy steps to get started:

First, check out, then to look for a CPP liaison in your local area and get connected. Find other CPP's and speak with them about what the process, what it brought to them and to their business. They'll help you sort through what certification can do for you. Finally, pair up with a CPP (shadow or second shoot are great options) and see how they do things and learn from them. After all, they are trained to create beautiful images under any circumstances, so you are bound to learn something.

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PPA member and renowned nature photographer Rodney Lough Jr., M.Photog., will host a book signing and unveil his first major image of 2013 on Friday, May 24, at his gallery in San Francisco.

To RSVP, visit Rodney's website.

View some of Rodney's images from the PPA Loan Collection below.

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Congratulations to PPA member Anna Kim of Anna Kim Photography in Paia, Hawaii! She landed the May cover of Lemonade and Lenses, a monthly photographer magazine, with this beauty of an image.


guardiansofheadrickchapel.jpgPPA member Kathryn Rutherford, M.Artist.Cr., of Heirloom Art Studio in Sevierville, Tenn., received one of the East Tennessee Historical Society's 2012 Awards of Excellence on May 8. Judged by committee, these awards recognize outstanding accomplishments in programming, publications, preservation and other achievements in history.

In Rutherford's case, she was honored with an Award of Distinction in recognition of her research and creation of original "Spirit Paintings," which capture the cultural history of the Great Smoky Mountain area. Most notable to the award are a series of four unique oil paintings that were created to record the ancestral residents associated with the Headrick Chapel in Wears Valley, Tenn. She also donated a portion of each reproduction print sale to the Friends of Headrick Chapel Restoration Fund to support the chapel's preservation.

"I am incredibly surprised and deeply honored to be recognized for my fine art and efforts to raise funds to preserve East Tennessee history," commented Rutherford. "As a portrait and restoration artist at the Heirloom Art Studio, it is always my hope that my work will bring joy and fulfillment to my clients and create heirlooms for the future. The Headrick Chapel Spirit Paintings have not only allowed me to capture a moment in time, but often put the faces of Wears Valley ancestors into the hands of descendants throughout the United States who, only through the purchase of my paintings, were able to view their ancestors for the first time."

These Spirit Paintings are just one of Rutherford's many specialties, combining the stories and histories of ordinary lives into one-of-kind, original fine art. Family members, historical figures, and people long gone are depicted as transparent ghosts forever captured as unique heirlooms that "bring back memories of another time," as Rutherford's website says.

Rutherford has been a PPA member since about 1986 and has earned her Master Artist and Photographic Craftsman degrees. She specializes in providing high-end photographic and fine art restoration, original portraits and paintings in oil and watercolor, photographic retouching, and original digital fine art to other pro photographers and specialty clients in 17 countries throughout the world. Rutherford holds a long list of prestigious awards from PPA and others, including Eastman Kodak Co. She was also awarded the Fuji Masterpiece Award for the invention of a process that captures and restores the images on blackened tintypes.  

More of Rutherford's work can be viewed at


You never know what one photograph will lead to. Take PPA member Steve Schindler's experience as an example! On New Year's Night 2009, Steve (of Schindler Photography in Lake Charles, LA) noticed kids playing with sparklers--writing their names in the air and so on. He put his camera on a tripod to capture some long exposures of it. Later, he posted one of the pictures on National Geographic's "My Shot" website. In May 2011, he received an email asking to use the picture in the book, "Visions of Earth" and in October 2011 the book was released! Congratulations, Steve! (Image ©Steve Schindler, Schindler Photography)

Dahlia Lavender 726 200dpi.jpgPPA member Barry J. Taratoot of Atlanta, Ga., has been selected by the Artists in Exhibition program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to exhibit his photographic works of fine art. His exhibit--"The Les Fleurs Collection" (French for "The Flowers")--is on display until May 16 in the airport's Atrium Gallery.

The exhibit consists of framed images ranging in size from 34" x 46" to just shy of 4ft. x 6ft. Given the fact that Barry's photographs are floral, the Atrium now bursts alive with subtle splashes of color that could not be more appropriate for an Atlanta spring showing.

Barry is one of eight Atlanta area artists invited each year to exhibit a photographic body of work at Hartsfield-Jackson. He does all of his own printing and finishing work in his home studio in Dunwoody, Ga. In fact, it's Barry's unusual way of photographing his floral subjects that makes them so very unique.

Although the images themselves are digitally captured and created, no special effects software is used to finish a photographic piece. According to Barry: "After the plants are photographed using a special lens and lighting technique, the images are imported to Adobe Photoshop to undergo color balancing, dust and dirt removal, and then positioned to create a perfectly beautiful photograph. The pictures are not digitally manipulated in Photoshop to any significant degree or any other professional application other than this."

tonsmeire_blog.JPGThe International Photographic Council (IPC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) of the United Nations, announced the eight recipients of its 2012 IPC Professional Photographer Leadership Awards. A good number of PPA members made the mark! The award recipients will be honored at the 14th Annual IPC Pro Award Luncheon, which will be held at the United Nations in New York City on May 17.

As it does each year, the IPC Awards Luncheon kicks off International Professional Photographers Month, saluting professionals around the globe. "The winners, nominated by professional photography organizations, are chosen for best representing the groups' criteria and ideals," says IPC President James Chung.

Congratulations to the 2012 IPC Professional Photographer Leadership Award recipients (especially our PPA members!):

  • Professional Photographers of America (PPA): Louis Tonsmeire
  • Professional School Photographers Association (PSPA): Ralph Romaguera (also a PPA member)
  • Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI): Jennifer Hudson (also a PPA member)
  • American Photographic Artists (APA):  Michael Grecco
  • American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP): James Cavanaugh
  • Federation of European Photographers (FEP): Bernd Gassner 
  • National Press Photographers Association (NPPA): Yunghi Kim
  • White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA): Chip Somodevilla

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