By Anne Polta
WILLMAR — His work as one of the West Central Tribune’s news photographers made Ron Adams a familiar sight at local parades, school events and more.
His pictures — and, more recently, videos — appeared almost daily in the newspaper’s print edition and online.
This week Adams, 61, is trading in his camera for retirement and a full-time career as a painter.
His last day is Saturday. A farewell open house will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Willmar Public Library.
Adams said he will miss his role as a window between readers and the community. “When you’re a photographer for a newspaper, you’re the face of the community,” he said.
He will also miss his co-workers in the newsroom.
“All of the reporters are like my best friends because I see them more than I see anybody else,” he said. “That’s going to be the hardest thing about leaving the fold. It is just like a family.”
“It has been my privilege to work with Ron with more than 12 years,” said Editor Kelly Boldan. “He has worked with dedication and consistency. His photography has played a major role in recording history in Willmar and the region for nearly two decades. He has left his mark.”
Adams has been with the Tribune for just a few months short of 20 years.
Art is his first love, going all the way back to high school when he began painting, but he learned early to appreciate the imagery of photography.
From small canvases to large murals, his paintings have always used photographs as the starting point. Wanting to use his own photos instead of someone else’s, he decided to pick up a camera and learn how to use it well. “It’s very important to have good images to work from,” he said.
He started working at the Tribune in 1994 as a part-time photographer. His tall, lanky figure soon became a fixture at local news events, especially on weekends. Schoolchildren referred to him as “the picture man.”
“A lot of people know me on sight,” he said.
Kids and animals were two of his favorite photography subjects. One assignment that stands out in his memory was when a moose wandered into town and he was sent to take pictures. He also remembers being there to capture the moment when a pair of circus elephants at the fairgrounds was taken into Foot Lake for a dip.
“What stands out in my mind is when something really different occurs, like a swimming elephant,” he said.
More recently he branched out into video, earning a statewide third-place award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association last year for his video of a reconciliation ceremony on the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War.
In between photo assignments that often took him on the road to area communities,
Adams is diligent about walking his dachshund, Jimi, and continuing with his painting. His latest one-man show, an exhibit at North American State Bank, is open through Saturday.
Adams said he’s looking forward to concentrating full time on his art and becoming more active in the local arts community, especially now that he will no longer have to juggle studio time with a news photographer’s schedule.
He already has his first major retirement project lined up: a historic mural he has been commissioned to paint at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building. The project is being funded through a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council and will probably take a year to complete.
“This has been a dream of mine for 20 years now,” he said.