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Herald-Palladium
John Matuszak,
Staff Writer
May 14, 2012


A parting snapshot


The H-Ps John Madill is hanging up his camera
after 33 years of capturing Southwest Michigan

ST. JOSEPH Individual pictures are frozen in time.   
     But over a career that stretched across five decades, Herald-Palladium photographer and Photo Editor John Madill witnessed a changing scene develop before his eyes.
     The great thing about being here for 33 years, you can really see and measure change, said Madill, 62, who will retire Thursday from the paper he joined in 1979. Ive seen a lot of changes and things that have come to fruition. In St. Joseph, the beach improvements, the carousel and Whirlpool fountain, and in Benton Harbor with the Arts District, the Whirlpool building, the golf course, and new construction along Main Street. Its very exciting.   
     After working as a professional photographer for almost 40 years, Madill, a Hartford resident, decided that there were things he and his wife, Betty, wanted
to do together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Madill admitted to being the worlds worst, but most avid golfer.
   He sails and canoes and wants to travel all of the Great Lakes in five days (not entirely by boat of course).
   He might take up fly fishing, after having recently met Stevensville entomologist and avid outdoorswoman Ann R. Miller, who recently wrote a book on the sport.

     He also wants to see the states he has not yet visited, mostly in New England and the Pacific Northwest.
     A fall trip to Washington, D.C., has been postponed because his stepdaughter, Jackie, is set to deliver their first grandchild on their travel date.
     With The Herald-Palladium, Madill has covered countless events both big and small, including 25 Blossomtime parades. He estimates that he has published 40,000 photographs.
     He has twice been to the Berrien County home of Muhammad Ali and has met golfing greats from Sam Snead to Tiger Woods. Hollywood celebrities that have been captured with his lens include Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bill Cosby.
     He has photographed every president from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush, but he regrets passing on a chance to take photos of President Barack Obama last year.
     He said his most memorable assignment was the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where he was sent to get photos of local delegates. At the convention he spoke with Sens. John Glenn and John Kerry, and Al Gore grabbed my hand and pumped it furiously.
     That was The Shot That Got Away. Gore wasnt expected that night, and Madill was replacing a roll of film in his camera when the vice president strode toward him and took his hand.
     Madill later did get a memorable shot of Gore and his wife, Tipper, with President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton waving toward him from the podium.

What goes into a good news photo?

     I read that the definition of a good news photo is that you can look at the picture six months later and know whats going on, Madill said. You want it to be simple and easy to read.
     Madill, a Detroit native who went to high school in Lansing, gravitated toward photography after serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.
     I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living, he recalled. I was a crummy college student who managed to get drafted.
     Overseas, he was a clerk at an island camp with 20,000 North Vietnamese prisoners of war, 2,000 South Vietnamese guards and two dozen of us to keep the peace.
     He came back home with a ubiquitous piece of paraphernalia. Everybody who came back from Vietnam came back with a 35-mm camera and the G.I. Bill. I just put them together and studied photography.
     He was drawn by the craft of the darkroom. Taking a picture and watching it appear on paper, it was fascinating.
     His first freelance job, taking pictures at high school football games, netted him $3 per photograph. He worked at weekly and daily newspapers and was a photographer for Western Michigan University for three years before joining The Herald-Palladium.
     He was attracted to news photography because its something different every day.

Out of the dark

     Along with the changing community scene, Madill experienced the transition from film to digital photography.
     While some of the craft of the darkroom was lost, Madill said he sees advantages to digital photography. You know if the picture turned out right away, and youre not pouring any noxious chemicals down the drain. Its much more environmentally friendly.
     Herald-Palladium Managing Editor Dave Brown said Madill is probably the best-known employee at The Herald-Palladium.
     It would be hard to find too many people in Southwest Michigan who havent had their picture taken by John or at least been at event where he was taking pictures, Brown said. For many years, he has been our newspapers face in the community. And he has represented us well. No one has ever complained to me about his professionalism or his respect for the people he has photographed. And on top of that, hes a great photographer.
     Along with his ability to frame an event, Madill is known as a welcome presence on the scene.
     John has an instant rapport with people. I know having him around clicking pictures made my job easier, Herald-Palladium Staff Writer Kate Genellie said. Everyone is more comfortable and conversational after having a quick chat with Madill.

In the newsroom he is comic relief.

     We joke with John a lot probably because hes the biggest jokester in three counties, Opinon Page Editor Dale Brewer said. Beyond the obvious dedication to his craft, I cant imagine a greater ambassador for the paper than John and his keep-em-laughing personality.
     There was one memorable occasion when the joke was on him.
     On a Christmas Eve, then-City Editor Jim Shanahan informed Madill that a Sodus man had called about his holiday tradition of taking a flaming lingonberry pie out of the oven at midnight and he wanted John to get a picture at the stroke of midnight.
     Madill, who had plans for that evening, slammed the darkroom door as hard as he could, remembers Staff Writer William F. Ast III. Once inside, he commenced cursing audibly and throwing things against the walls.
     Shanahan strung him along the rest of the day before telling Madill that the assignment was a joke.

Madill is also the trivia master of The Herald-Palladium.

     I think what I will miss most is Johns great curiosity and love of films and books and other things he found fascinating, Local News Editor Ted Hartzell said. For years he ran a lunchtime in-house Jeopardy game. Ill miss that spirit.
     (One of Madills favorite factoids: What is the only state capital without a Mc-Donalds? Answer: Montpelier, Vt.) He is also known for his generosity.
     Im worried about who is going to keep me in chocolate, said Staff Writer Julie Swidwa. John, when I least expect it, drops a Take Five bar on my desk and tells me I look like I need a break. Hey, wait, maybe thats an insult!

H-P photographer Don Campbell will take over as photo editor.

     I guarantee he has more energy and more ideas that I do, Madill said. Production will go up 20 percent with me gone.
     He also is impressed with the skill of Erin Stubblefield, a photographer who is joining the paper. She is very talented.
     Any advice for up-andcoming photographers such as Stubblefield?
     You have to really have a passion, Madill said. I dont know how you can succeed without that passion.
 

 

More proof that when something needs to be done right,
hire Hartford folks!! 


Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 



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A Pictorial History of Hartford, Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik,
Competent Secretarial Service
Copyright 2000 - All rights reserved.


Revised: March 20, 2014