Comes a time

It was the first week of October 2002. A story on a heavy metal band had just graced the Durango Telegraph, and most locals still thought our business dealt in primitive telecommunications. (“That’s weird. I thought the telegraph left Durango decades ago.”)

At the end of that particular week, I happened to be lying on the pile carpet of the office and moaning. I’d just taken a healthy ribbing for an article on motorcycle rallies, was still a little hazy from the prior night’s post-press festivities and needed to sprint down to the bank and deposit a $74 check to keep our young newspaper in business.

“Is this a bad time?” a voice asked from the office’s front door.

I looked up from my position on the shag, spying Todd Newcomer and his camera bag. “No, not really,” I answered, cutting off the moan and springing to my feet. “What can we do for you?”

In shy tones, Todd explained that he was a photographer, had recently relocated from the Front Range, and was shopping around Durango for work. He didn’t have much professional experience, but broke out a slick portfolio and a calm personality, one that could probably handle editors occasionally hitting the carpet.

As an added bonus, Todd didn’t turn and run when I explained that the Telegraph paid one Hamilton (that’s $10 for the history-challenged among us) per inside photo and four of the white-haired presidents for a cover shot.

After hearing our terms, Todd offered only one condition of his own before we sealed the new arrangement with a handshake. “There is one thing,” he said firmly. “My specialties are nature photography and still-lifes. I’d rather not shoot the more social stuff.”

I patted him on the back and grinned, “Not a problem. I can relate … Now if you’ll pardon me, I’ve got a date with a deposit slip.”

I’m happy to report that Missy and I honored Todd’s request to shoot “nature” photographs from the start. Hours after adding his name to staff box, we promptly rewarded him with the freelance photographer’s dream – the coveted Fiesta Days Pageant assignment. What could be more natural than dozens of 16- to 18-year-old girls, decked out in Wranglers, Stetsons and Justins?

An effort named “Coronation Day,” our little Newcomer assembled a glittering spread of ladies in waiting, rodeo princesses and the heated competition for the Fiesta Days sash. Pressed denim, tiaras attached to 10-gallon hats and “cotton candy” lipstick have never had it so good. Dazed, confused and probably missing the Front Range, Todd stumbled out of the fairgrounds and back to the office.

A few weeks later, we happily heeded his request for still lifes. This time, the assignment was Ska’s Punk Rock Breakfast (the still lifes show up during its second half). Levis and Pinstripe replaced Jordache and RC Cola, and Todd not only captured the event on film, he successfully dodged a couple of projectiles, stepped clear of the lead singer of the Thirteens swinging from the rafters and returned to the office having swilled only a few samples.

These days, there’s much less moaning and laying on the floor at the Telegraph. Somewhere along the way, Todd, the Durango Telegraph and the rest of us grew a lot together. Unfortunately our paths also part ways this week. Todd and his wife, Kim, are off to Fort Collins, a land where newspaper editors reportedly sit in large comfy chairs and sport more than a few Hamiltons for wages.

It’s been nearly four years since that fateful day when Todd stepped through our front door, and Todd’s work – from his first lady in waiting to his final cover shot this week – has always given this funky newspaper its flavor. During times when people were saying, “It’ll never work” and “No one can go up against the Herald,” Todd was working long hours for little pay. And through nearly 200 editions, he captured the real face of Durango one week at a time.

His careful eye has brought out the brush strokes in a weathered door, found the surreal hidden in a truck’s headlight and revealed the depth of a parent’s smile. His camera watched as Durango bounced back from the fires of 2002. He caught Durango’s reaction to the War in Iraq. And he showed us what it means to have a good time in the midst of it all, whether it was in a River Parade or at a Hozhoni Days Powwow.

As he moves on to the next frame, Todd will also be missed as a writer of cutlines, a lover of dark beers, and a paddler, cyclist and occasional adventure racer. Hell, we’ll even miss his winter transvestism – the way he casually shelved his beloved telemark skis for a snowboard when the powder got deep enough (“Just don’t tell my mom”).

But above all, we will miss the humor, integrity and friendship he brought to our day-to-day at the Durango Telegraph. It’s been a great ride, and we’re all sorry the journey has to come to an end.

So, adios compadre. Adios for now.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows