Steele's camera: 'In times of loss, all is not lost'

Special to The News & ObserverOctober 7, 2013 

Three young photographers for the Chronicle, Kristen Mayo, Breana Kea and Taylor Owens are using the late photojournalist, Steele Williams' donated camera.

COURTESY OF EVEY WILSON

Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on durhamvoice.org, a community newspaper.

Last spring, after the fifth anniversary of Eve Carson’s death and a laudatory column in the Raleigh News & Observer by Executive Editor John Drescher, I received an email from Dr. Randall Williams of Raleigh; he and his wife, Elizabeth, had read Drescher’s piece and wanted to make a contribution to the VOICE.

But this gift was like none other; it was a fine Nikon 35mm camera belonging to their late son, Steele, a 26-year-old photojournalism major and graduate of the University of Montana who had photographed in the troubled Middle East.

The talented young man’s obituary told a story of a remarkable life lost too soon: “He was happiest when taking photographs that told a story about people … as a part of his journalistic tradition, he had strong principles about injustice, which came to the forefront while he worked in Baghdad, Iraq, last fall. Pictures he took in Iraq also showed that he was gifted at capturing a moment or an emotion with his camera.”

Over hot dogs at Sutton’s lunch counter, Dr. Williams handed me his late son’s camera. Amid all the laughter and good cheer of that iconic Chapel Hill cafe, the doctor’s eyes and mine locked; we knew what this exchange meant.

This camera was no ordinary piece of plastic, glass and computer chips. It was his son’s legacy. It would be put to good use, I promised.

And a few weeks ago, all that came to pass, as “Steele’s camera” was presented to Hillside High School and the Chronicle, led by journalism teacher Liz DeOrnellas, who revived that high school’s newspaper, thanks in part to mentoring and computers donated by the VOICE.

When I met the three young photographers for the Chronicle, Kristen Mayo, Breana Kea and Taylor Owens, and saw the photos they made from that Friday’s football game, I knew we had done the right thing.

When I sent Dr. Williams the photo of the Hillside three with Steele’s camera, he wrote back simply, “It’s good to know that in times of loss, all is not lost.”

Jock Lauterer is the co-publisher of the Durham VOICE.

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