Photo journalist for the Hood County News for 18 years

Words by Jonathan Hooper | Photography by White Orchid Photography

 

How many hundreds of quotations are attributed to the photograph? Yes, that many, and more! The photograph. From the humble to the elaborate, whether hung in the poshest art galleries as well as the grandmother’s refrigerator door, black & white or color enhanced, digital or film, the ubiquitous photograph provides us with an accurate record of the living. Or as Andy Warhol once said, “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”

Some photographers are famous for their celebrity and commercial acclaim, such as Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Ansel Adams. Or consider the photograph that becomes famous, when the sailor kisses the girl in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s exuberant “V-J Day in Times Square,” or the pain and fatigue in Dorothea Lange’s tragic “Migrant Mother.”

The photo journalist of local events helps to shape our view of the community with a single frame just as much as the more famous photographer might earn critical acclaim. Sometimes, the local photographer can do both. And that brings us to Mary Ellen Vinson, life-long photographer, and retired photo journalist for the Hood County News.

You have seen hundreds of her photographs taken in and around Granbury. Critically-juried awards contest committees have seen them, and they like what they saw. Her list of earned awards is impressive, and include the coveted North Texas and East Texas Photographer of the Year.

The Family Portrait

Mary Ellen’s father was in the military, and lived all over the world. As an avid amateur photographer, he bought cameras and took photographs. Mary Ellen’s older brother became interested in photography, and told her to “go buy a camera” when she would hang out with him so much, as little sisters often do. She bought a camera, and was hooked.

She soon met future husband Gary, who also an avid photographer. They both enrolled in Photography classes at Tarrant County Community College in Fort Worth, where their instructor, Jerry Sorrels, quickly moved them into the dark room to enhance their film developing skills. They both enjoyed the technical side of the dark room so much that they outfitted a dark room with gifted wedding money instead of buying dishes or a washing machine.

From 1980 to 1993 Mary Ellen put those dark room skills to good use at The Black & White Works in Fort Worth, developing prints for large scale photography shows in local museums as well as clients around the world who soon learned of her printing expertise. During this time, her son Nick became very interested in nature, and wanted to go to the zoo school. After a few visits, the zoo teacher asked Mary Ellen to teach classes. She quickly created the first photography class- es for Fort Worth Zoo, working extensively behind the scenes with zoo keepers to document everything from births to feeding habits.

She pursued more extensive development of her craft with Fort Worth legendary photographers Byrd Williams and Wilburn Davis. She remarked, “Wilburn was the first in Fort Worth to use an on-camera flash—that was a long time ago! He also created innovative lighting and flash techniques that we still use today.”

Film or Digital? Black & White or Color

Her time in Fort Worth also included the massive shift from film to digital formats. She says,
“I am a digital girl, but my roots are in the dark room, so I like film, too. I lived in both worlds. I still do. But digital is more flexible out in the field where one camera can adjust to all sorts of different situations.”

In 2001 she joined the Hood County News as a photo journalist, and spent the next 18 years documenting everything good, and everything bad, that occurred in Hood County and the surround area. Able to draw on her experience in the art world, the dark room, and documenting events, Mary Ellen quickly showed her prowess behind the camera with an extraordinary shot of a lightning storm, and ran into the office after the deadline, yelling “Stop the presses!” They did, and the photo was featured on the front page.

Her most memorable assignment was in the aftermath of the 2013 tornado. She noticed immediately that with all the sensational media coverage from around the country, lots of people and lots of news was falling between the cracks. Through her efforts with the Hood County News, she was able to highlight those silent heroes and victims in a special July 4th edition, from recently homeless to medical examiners, firefighters and Methodist church workers, and more. One photo of the triage center won a National Newspaper Association award. “It was a life-changing experience for all involved. We all helped to bring these groups of people together through these photos.”

As for black & white vs color? “I like both!” She added that she enjoys working with color more mow, but enjoyed black & white earlier in her career. The technical challenges of black & white still appeal to her dark room roots.

More Than A Photo

The lens can be an awkward intrusion during and following a joyful celebration. And it is obvious that no one likes a camera lens shoved in their face after a tragic event. Mary Ellen strives to be ever-mindful of her presence in either situation. “I always consider that my actions can create reactions. I watch my manners. I give officials their space. I try to be very respectful. I don’t encroach. On the other hand, I have to get the shot.”

“I would like to thank the community for the opportunity and experience. Photographic journalism is a perspective of the community like no other. I feel blessed, and am a better person for it.”

Worth a thousand words.
The story you cannot
tell with words.
When words become unclear.
The humanity of the moment.
What our lives mean to us.

 

     How many hundreds of quotations are attributed to the photograph? Yes, that many, and more!
     The photograph. From the humble to the elaborate, whether hung in the poshest art galleries as well as the grandmother’s refrigerator door, black & white or color enhanced, digital or film, the ubiquitous photograph provides us with an accurate record of the living. Or as Andy Warhol once said,
     “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”

     Some photographers are famous for their celebrity and commercial acclaim, such as Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Ansel Adams. Or consider the photo- graph that becomes famous, when the sailor kisses the girl in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s exuberant “V-J Day in Times Square,” or the pain and fatigue in Dorothea Lange’s tragic “Migrant Mother.”
     The photo journalist of local events helps to shape our view of the community with a single frame just as much as the more famous photographer might earn critical acclaim. Sometimes, the local photographer can do both. And that brings us to Mary Ellen Vinson, life-long photographer, and retired photo journalist for the Hood County News.
     You have seen hundreds of her photographs taken in and around Granbury. Critically-juried awards contest committees have seen them, and they like what they saw. Her list of earned awards is impressive, and include the coveted North Texas and East Texas Photographer of the Year.

The Family Portrait

     Mary Ellen’s father was in the military, and lived all over the world. As an avid amateur photographer, he bought cameras and took photographs. Mary Ellen’s older brother became interested in photography, and told her to “go buy a camera” when she would hang out with him so much, as little sisters often do. She bought a camera, and was hooked.

     She soon met future husband Gary, who also an avid photographer. They both enrolled in Photography classes at Tarrant County Community College in Fort Worth, where their instructor, Jerry Sorrels, quickly moved them into the dark room to enhance their film developing skills. They both enjoyed the technical side of the dark room so much that they outfitted a dark room with gifted wedding money instead of buying dishes or a washing machine.
     From 1980 to 1993 Mary Ellen put those dark room skills to good use at The Black & White Works in Fort Worth, developing prints for large scale photography shows in local museums as well as clients around the world who soon learned of her printing expertise. During this time, her son Nick became very interested in nature, and wanted to go to the zoo school. After a few visits, the zoo teacher asked Mary Ellen to teach classes. She quickly created the first photography class- es for Fort Worth Zoo, working extensively behind the scenes with zoo keepers to document everything from births to feeding habits.
     She pursued more extensive development of her craft with Fort Worth legendary photographers Byrd Williams and Wilburn Davis. She remarked, “Wilburn was the first in Fort Worth to use an on-camera flash—that was a long time ago! He also created innovative lighting and flash techniques that we still use today.”

Did You Know?

The history of photography goes back centuries! The process of developing film dates back to the 19th century, and the first color photo was taken in 1869 by Louis Ducos du Hauron.

Film or Digital? Black & White or Color

Her time in Fort Worth also included the massive shift from film to digital formats. She says,
“I am a digital girl, but my roots are in the dark room, so I like film, too. I lived in both worlds. I still do. But digital is more flexible out in the field where one camera can adjust to all sorts of different situations.”
In 2001 she joined the Hood County News as a pho- to journalist, and spent the next 18 years documenting everything good, and everything bad, that occurred in Hood County and the surround area. Able to draw on her experience in the art world, the dark room, and documenting events, Mary Ellen quickly showed her prowess behind the camera with an extraordinary shot of a lightning storm, and ran into the office after the deadline, yelling “Stop the presses!” They did, and the photo was featured on the front page.
Her most memorable assignment was in the after- math of the 2013 tornado. She noticed immediately that with all the sensational media coverage from around the country, lots of people and lots of news was falling between the cracks. Through her efforts with the Hood County News, she was able to highlight those silent heroes and victims in a special July 4th edition, from recently homeless to medical examiners, firefighters and Methodist church workers, and more. One photo of the triage center won a National Newspaper Associ- ation award. “It was a life-changing experience for all involved. We all helped to bring these groups of people together through these photos.”
As for black & white vs color? “I like both!” She added that she enjoys working with color more mow, but enjoyed black & white earlier in her career. The technical challenges of black & white still appeal to her dark room roots.

More Than a Photo

The lens can be an awkward intrusion during and following a joyful celebration. And it is obvious that no one likes a camera lens shoved in their face after a trag- ic event. Mary Ellen strives to be ever-mindful of her presence in either situation. “I always consider that my actions can create reactions. I watch my manners. I give officials their space. I try to be very respectful. I don’t encroach. On the other hand, I have to get the shot.”
“I would like to thank the community for the op- portunity and experience. Photographic journalism is a perspective of the community like no other. I feel blessed, and am a better person for it.”