The most effective photographers are gentle whisperers. They evaluate and meter illumination, taming and harnessing it working with aperture and shutter pace. To the relaxation of us, light-weight is common and unwieldy but in the lens of a learn photographer, it is magic and malleable.

One of the brightest stars in the constellation of Arkansas’ best photographers went out very last thirty day period when Tom McDonald handed away.

Legendary in his own time, with a productive job spanning 4 a long time, the legacy of Tom and his spouse of 63 a long time, Jo Alice–a renowned photographer in her have proper–is boundless and timeless.

In addition to legions of customers with McDonald photos nonetheless around and expensive to their hearts (myself incorporated), Tom’s standing obtained intercontinental recognition, qualifications and acclaim.

The most prestigious honor presented by the Skilled Photographers of The united states (PPA), which has about 30,000 associates, is the George W. Harris award. Recognized in 1951, only 20 medals ended up struck to be specified to people today for distinguished service to photography. Tom McDonald was the 17th photographer to get 1 of the coveted medals in 1996.

The PPA also honored Tom in 2018 with its Life time Accomplishment Award (this year’s recipient was Emmy Award-profitable and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ken Burns).

Tom was also the only Arkansan to receive a Fellow of Images award from the American Society of Photographers.

In 1996, Tom wrote “The Enterprise of Portrait Images,” which was revised and up-to-date for new-edition publication in 2002. Even right after all this time, it continues to be timely as a excellent browse for the startup photographer, full of guidance, insights and anecdotes shipped in Tom’s properly-expressed fashion. You can listen to him smiling via the phrases.

Tom’s personalized existence was as storied as his specialist career. An officer, gentleman and scholar, Tom served his region, taught Sunday School for 40 many years, and presided around point out and nationwide associations as properly as hometown civic organizations.

In his book’s introduction, Tom involved this quote attributed to Louis Nizer: “A gentleman who performs with his palms is a laborer a man who functions with his fingers and his mind is a craftsman but a person who works with his fingers and his brain and his coronary heart is an artist.”

Long prior to I at any time commissioned a image session with him, I had often walked past the inspiring Tom McDonald artwork that lined the long entryway of Wyatt’s Cafeteria in the aged Indian Shopping mall in Jonesboro.

Not a day passes that I you should not continue to observe and admire one particular of the numerous McDonald masterpieces on canvas that adorn the walls of my house. It is an honor certainly, and an aspiration over and above what most of us can think about, to have one’s artistry stay on so superbly just after death.

When I see individuals different family portraits, spanning many years of my children’s young lives, I bear in mind so considerably much more than just those 1/100ths of a 2nd frozen in body.

On the lookout at a portrait of my younger sons laughing amid a swirl of descending yellow ginkgo leaves, I remember Tom currently being “on phone” while my spouse and I waited for these leaves to get started slipping (ginkgoes eliminate the bulk of their leaves in a single working day) and the flurry and hurry to get the boys dressed and set up the shot.

A major framed portrait of our first 3 little ones, barefoot and beaming and dressed in white on a wicker sofa, hangs around a desk in close proximity to a lender of home windows. Tom and Jo Alice ended up at our new house significantly of that day, and the session showcased many scenes and a number of wardrobe adjustments. One of my beloved McDonald items is a “tea party” picture in our front garden from that working day–it’s in an upstairs bedroom.

My youngest daughter peeks out concerning big sliding pocket doorways in another portrait in our front corridor. Up the stairway wall, my wife cradles that identical daughter as an infant, and all the Kelley young ones at several ages glance out from Tom McDonald prints. Just about every session has a tale, every single provides back memories, and all espouse joy.

Tom wrote in his guide that he obtained success not only from successful awards (in a single 10-calendar year span he experienced 34 of 40 prints recognized for the PPA nationwide Masters exhibit), but also from developing portraits that happy people.

“Nothing is a lot more gratifying than to hear clientele say that I have revealed the love they feel in a portrait,” he wrote.

In 1997, Jo Alice gave us a duplicate of the PPA Exhibit 96 coffee table book, with a notice inside and a website page bookmarked. I appeared once more at her picture chosen for inclusion that featured two of my daughters in an autumn meadow prints of that portrait hold at household and in my workplace.

This time, I noticed the site range: 88.

Unlike Tom’s daily life, his art will never ever be measured in many years. How do you depend the worthy of of a smile, a watery eye, a heart tug?

Artwork transcends time and extends daily life Tom McDonald life on in every position 1 of his portraits is exhibited.

Which is an enduring blessing, for me and so several other individuals.


Dana D. Kelley is a freelance author from Jonesboro.