I received an e-mail yesterday from longtime Catholic Standard & Times freelance photographer Joanna Lightner letting me know that she is gravely ill. Like Joanna herself, the e-mail was filled with the kind of grace I rarely evince but always recognize. And while the news saddened me greatly, it also brought to mind the words I spoke at my own mother's memorial: how the loved ones of artists are luckier than most - because the artist lives on in the art she created during her lifetime.
So it will be with Joanna.
Her images have been part of the Catholic Standard & Times much longer than my six years at the paper. She has probably photographed thousands of events at hundreds of venues. Those of my readers who are part of the Philadelphia Archdiocese have probably seen her snapping pix at the Cathedral and churches around the five counties - a tidy, slender figure with a mass of blond curls and the kind of dangly, artsy earrings I covet.
Since Joanna has always worked for us as a freelancer, I haven't had the opportunity to spend tons of time with her - but she's always been one of my favorites (yes, managing editors have favorites). I usually schedule her to cover the annual Hispanic Heritage and Migration Week Masses because she doesn't mind diving into the fray and capturing the energy and pageantry that gets lost if you stand back and set yourself apart from what you are shooting. I seem to remember her telling me that she didn't start out as a photographer, but discovered her passion for that artform later in life. Maybe that's why the distance and reserve aren't there; maybe that's why I schedule her for the events that are nearest and dearest to my own heart.
Joanna's photos are here, too, accompanying some of my blog posts. (If you type Joanna's name into the Lijit search tool on the right nav bar you will bring up each post that has an image or two of hers to accompany it.)
Much as I try to be a stoic, I'm just not. It's hard for me to lose anyone I care about, and I care about Joanna. But the friends and colleagues of photographers are luckier than most - the images captured by their unique eyes, their unique hearts, will live on and on.