Donald Blake died last week, in Santa Fe. His unique visage was a staple at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops for many years, and there are countless portraits of him in computer files and on hard drives everywhere. The camera loved him, and he loved it right back.
We became close friends over time. He always came back, “out of retirement” for my classes. One of my fondest memories is him spinning my wife Annie and my studio manager Lynn, teaching them the two step, on the dance floor at Tiny’s, where he and his honey Mary Jo would always go on Friday nights. Out in the field, I loved the twinkle in his eye as he sipped his “coffee” which was, at least sometimes, straight Cuervo.
He was always a total pro. When he came to location, he would come with his own clothes rack and variety of suits, jackets and hats. He was invariably early, and possessed of an energy that spoke to a much younger individual. Experienced with lighting to a fault, I would often watch a workshop participant set up a light, and have Donald, with a knowing nod, quietly say, “You’re gonna wanna move that light a bit to the left.” He was always right.
We would talk of many things, which he was capable of doing quite readily, as he himself had been many things during his long life. Traveled and skilled, he could spin wonderful yarns. I suspect a great number of them were true.
What was certainly true was our friendship. I will miss him. He said to me once, “Joe, the day they put me down, all the music in the world’s gonna stop.” Well, some of the music in my heart certainly stopped when I got the news of his passing. It will resume, I know, strong and true, as I will look at clouds now and know he is there, sipping tequila, and nodding approval when I am at the camera and put the light in the right place.