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Harriet Kelley, R.I.P. (10/25/2006)
By Frances Edstrom


     
When I first met Harriet Kelley and her brother, "One Shot," I had no idea that newspapering would become my life's work. In fact, I probably had a secret ambition to become a professional actor. (My father loved to tell the story about the time, shortly after starring in the high school play, he told his own father about his dream of becoming an actor. His dad, my grandfather, told him if he did, he'd never own a pair of pants without a shiny rear end. In those days when it was still important to dress well, that meant he thought his son's acting abilities were such that he'd never be able to afford a new pair of pants.)

I met the Kelleys when I was a student at the College of Saint Teresa, which we thought had a pretty good theater department (as well as the many townspeople who filled the audiences of our productions). Back in those days before digital cameras, even small newspapers employed full-time photographers who were sent all over the paper's circulation area to get photos for print. The newspaper always sent a photographer, and often a reporter, before our plays opened to the public. It must be mentioned that photographers dread photo shoots in auditorium stages, which suck light like a kid with a straw in a milkshake. The photographer not only had to have a good eye, but also be a good darkroom technician. At the time, the newspaper photographer of note was Merritt "One Shot" Kelley, often ably assisted by Harriet. After "One Shot" retired, it was Harriet who would be seen at any and all events capturing images for print.

Most of us have been in a group of people being photographed. It is not something we look forward to. There is always at least one person in the group who simply cannot comply with the photographer's direction. Or perhaps the photographer (I have been the guilty party here) forgot to turn the camera on, or had it on the wrong setting. And of course most of us hate seeing pictures of ourselves, which seem to differ so radically from the way we see ourselves in the mirror! So it is no wonder that a photographer is often greeted by a sullen group of groaning people shifting uncontrollably from leg to leg.

But Harriet and "One Shot" had a magic formula, which I wish they had passed on to me. They showed up, quickly conferred with the show's director, who quickly placed the cast on stage, and before you could say "cheese" the picture was taken and you were looking at the backs of the Kelleys as they disappeared up the center aisle.

And then when the photo appeared in the paper, lo and behold, it was good, and you'd think to yourself that you didn't look too bad after all, and you'd marvel that you could see everyone's face that was supposed to be seen. I didn't truly appreciate the magic of the Kelleys until I tried to replicate these staged scenes myself.

Harriet Kelley was a good photographer, and always a pleasant person to meet, even in her later days at Lake Winona Manor. Goodbye, Harriet, and thanks for the thousands of photographic memories you have left on this earth. 

 

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