An Eye For Art
Colleagues Remember Longtime P-J Chief Photographer
If every picture tells a story, than Richard W. Hallberg told more than 50,000 tales.
Hallberg, 89, of Lakewood, passed away Monday at his residence. Hallberg, who was known as “Dick,” was the chief photographer for many years at The Post-Journal. In 1946, Hallberg started his long-time career at the newspaper in the mail room as a part-time employee when he was a senior in high school. Hallberg applied to work in the paper’s photo department when there was an opening around the time he graduated from high school.
“Naturally, I applied,” Hallberg said during a 1990 interview about his career.
The article, which highlighted Hallberg’s work for the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, states that he was mentored by Bert Gustafson, who was the chief photographer when Hallberg started.
“When I worked under Bert Gustafson, who was head photographer when I became a member of the photo department, I noticed that he was always looking for something different.
“This rubbed off on me and I shall always be grateful to him for his insight, which I seemingly have inherited,” he said.
Hallberg was known for taking memorable shots of animals and children during his career.
During his 40th anniversary as a photographer, The Post-Journal’s Saturday family magazine Tempo highlighted Hallberg’s career on Feb. 21, 1987. According to the article that accompanied many of Hallberg’s more notable photos, Hallberg took more than 50,000 pictures by his 40th anniversary.
Hallberg was recognized for his work, which including a first-place prize from the New York State Fair and several Associated Press Association awards. His work was on the cover twice of the New York Daily News and his photos appeared on the cover of People and Ebony magazines. Hallberg had the chance to take photos of several famous people including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; Roger Tory Peterson; King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden; New York Governors Nelson Rockefeller, Averell Harriman and Mario Cuomo; and former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy
Cristie Herbst, retired editor of The Post-Journal, said Hallberg started out like many famous photojournalists by taking pictures as a youngster with a little Brownie box camera. She said he learned how to develop film and print pictures in his neighbor’s darkroom.
”What a gift Dick Hallberg gave me when I was a cub reporter and he was chief photographer,” Herbst said. ”When we were on assignments together, I learned from Dick how to fully listen and to think about what was being said, to take it all in so I could capture in writing, just as he did in pictures, the nuances that would help readers really understand what had happened.”
Herbst said together the two covered events from kings and queens to would-be presidents to accidents and fires.
”We also took soft stories and turned them into snapshots of life in this area: a woman who raised crickets; the rotted hulk of a once-magnificent steamboat; a weepy kindergartner’s first day at school. In everything he covered, Dick used his considerable photojournalism skills to always come back to the newsroom with great photos, no matter how big or small the story,” Herbst said. ”Dick Hallberg also was one of the kindest, and certainly the most gentle and soft-spoken colleague I had in all my years at The Post-Journal.”
Donald L. Meyer, former editor and publisher of The Post-Journal, said Hallberg had an ”eye” for capturing action shots.
”You don’t want dull photos for news stories. Dick had a good sense of that. He also loved children. He had a knack of getting great photos out of them,” Meyer said. ”He was a gifted photographer. He had an interesting eye, especially for composition. It interested me that Dick would frame photos that would require very little cropping or editing.”
Meyer said Hallberg was well-liked by both the public and those in the newsroom.
”He was a very mild-mannered fellow. The public loved working with him. We did too. He was a very courteous and very humble man. A pleasure to be around,” Meyer said. ”Personally, I’m deeply saddened by the news. Dick was a special part of the team. I was quite sad when I heard the news. It was just one of those ‘ouch’ moments you go through. He was a good friend.”
Ron Gustafson learned from Hallberg when he was starting his career in the 1970s at The Post-Journal. Gustafson said he learned from Hallberg how to be a photographer, which is a skill he still uses today as the marketing and public relations director for Quassy Amusement & Waterpark in Middlebury, Conn.
”I can think back to things Dick taught me as a cub reporter. I wasn’t a photojouralist a the time, but I remember Dick and Norm Johnson, who was the night photographer, taught me about photography. I grasped photography there at The P-J,” Gustafson said. ”(Hallberg) would do what needed to be done. He was a pleasure to work with. One of the nicest guys on the face of the earth. He is going to be missed by a lot of us old timers. Dick was iconic, period.”