Three days ago, an inspiration and dear mentor of mine, Richard Stromberg, passed away after a long and difficult fight with pancreatic cancer. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from him and grow into what I feel is a much better person from the gift he has given me. He is responsible for opening me up to my new found addiction to photography.
Richard wasn't just an amazing photographer and teacher. He was the spitting image of an upstanding human-being dedicated to bettering this world.
From the moment I met him, I was profoundly amused and intrigued by his presence. It was difficult to explain why to people who have never met him. It was even more difficult to explain my affinity for him to those who had met him briefly, as he was notorious for being a bit tongue in cheek at times, alittle rough around the edges, and to the naked eye a weathering individual. His jokes were dry and blunt. You could tell he was veteran to his own beliefs. He meant what he said, and believed in the good of people, and if he believed in you, he would push you (and hard). I've come to realize that my fascination is from his outlook on life that I was privy to learning about from his classes and our own private discussions.
I visited him in the hospital on November 5th, two days before his passing. My friend Mike Reynolds, a dedicated lab instructor at Richards school, gave me a ride to visit him. We both sat with him and chatted about the GOP taking over the House and Senate; how upsetting and confused he was about it. He talked about his efforts during the civil rights movement, how people fought for what was right, and how during that time people understood what it meant to be human. "Take only as much as your willing to give back," he said, referring to certain government officials that lack valuing its citizens; those who uphold attitudes that government should be minimized in the lives of people, including the impoverished and struggling.
He talked about brotherhood, where he came from, how he wanted so badly to see racism end in his lifetime. He told us stories related to his learning of privilege and equality, the moments that made him dedicated to fighting the right fight.
I find it amazing that in his final few days, he chose to discuss the potential good of this world and reflect on his part in getting us there. I wish I could fully describe the power of this last conversation I had with him, but "writing" about it just doesn't quite hold true. There are so few people that I have met in this world that I can describe as "true". He is beyond truth.
As for his life, he has instructed roughly 25,000 students in the art of photography. As a professional photo journalist, he has played a significant part in Chicago's history and civil rights movements. You don't know it, but you have seen his work before. I can guarantee it and it has probably in some small way impacted your life.
As one of his last students, I vouch for his school and methods of teaching. I love being a member of the community he built and I am dedicated to remaining a part of it in any capacity I can. In addition, from Richard, I feel I have been made into a much better human. I understand now, that even though I am one, I am capable, and that is enough to make a change.
Dear Richard, if you could only know: Laughter will still be heard, and learning will still occur.