Rich Clarkson

Rich Clarkson

2011 Honoree: Achievement in Sports


Rich ClarksonAfter a career in magazine and newspaper photojournalism as an administrator, editor and photographer, Rich Clarkson founded his Denver-based company in 1987 for the creation and management of unique projects whose foundation is based upon the uses of fine photography in many forms.

His professional career included stints as director of photography and senior assistant editor of The National Geographic Society, assistant managing editor/graphics of The Denver Post, director of photography of The Topeka (Ks.) Capital-Journal and a contract/contributing photographer for Sports Illustrated magazine.

Currently, Rich Clarkson and Associates packages photographic books, creates attendant exhibitions, manages photography and associated publishing projects for clients such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association , the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, the Denver Broncos football team, manages continuing education seminars and workshops for professional photographers and serves as consultant to media, advertising and photographic trade organizations.

The group organized and managed a variety of projects celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Press Photographers Association including a week of gala events in Washington, D. C. in June, 1995.  Clarkson, a past president of the association headed the Council of Presidents of NPPA charged with creating the anniversary celebration.

A 1956 journalism graduate of the University of Kansas, he served as an information services officer in the Air Force for two years before becoming director of photography of The Topeka Capital-Journal, a position he held for  21 years during which time, the  newspaper became a recognized national leader in use of photography.  Eleven members of that newspaper staff were then or eventually recognized as Newspaper or Magazine Photographers of the Year for the nation. During this period and later, he was also a contract photographer for Sports Illustrated magazine.

He was assistant managing editor/graphics of The Denver Post from 1980 until 1984 when he joined the staff of the National Geographic Society.  He was their director of photography and senior assistant editor from 1984-1987. Two members of the staffs at Topeka and Denver won the Pulitzer Prize in photography.

He was president of the National Press Photographers Association in 1975-6 and was education chairman for 14 years organizing the annual Flying Short Course, a symposium in current photojournalism that toured five cities across the nation in a single week.  He was twice chairman of NPPA’s “Pictures of the Year,” the principal competition in this country for photojournalists, both magazine and newspapers.

He is a trustee of the William Allen White Foundation of the University of Kansas, a member of the honorary advisory council of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wy., and was a founding officer of the National Press Photographers Foundation.  He is a member of the executive committee of the W. Eugene Smith  Memorial Fund and chaired the grant jury in 1995.  He is a member of the University of Colorado School of Journalism advisory committee and a board member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

He was the recipient of the National Citation of the William Allen White Foundation in 2007 and has been selected for inclusion in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame with the class of 2007.

He is the organizer of three annual workshops in photography and his company produces these symposiums in Sports Photography with the U. S. Olympic Committee and in editorial and wildlife photography each summer in Jackson Hole, Wy.  He has been a regular lecturer at the annual Missouri Workshops, the Maine Photographic Workshops, the International Center of Photography in New York City and has been active in other workshops in this country and overseas.  He was a lecturer on the adjunct faculty of the University of Kansas School of Journalism for seven years and the University of Colorado school journalism for two.  He was twice a Pulitzer Prize juror and serves as a judge and advisor for the Sasakawa Sports Foundation and Competition in Toyko for the past ten years.

He was named by American Photo magazine as one of the 50 most influential individuals in American photography. He is recipient of an Honorary Masters of Science Degree in Professional Photography from the Brooks Institute of Photography .

He has been a contributor to numerous publications on photojournalism and sports and has co-authored six books including “The Jim Ryun Story” with Cordner Nelson in 1967, “Sooner” with Bill Bruns in 1972, “Knight With the Hoosiers” with Bob Hammel in 1975, “Montreal ‘76” with Bill Bruns in 1976, “The Final Four” with Billy Reed in 1988 and “Silver Knight” with Bob Hammel in 1996.  He produced an entirely new version of the book, The Final Four” with the 60th anniversary of the tournament in 2001.  He was the compiling editor of “The Kansas Century: 100 Years of Jayhawk Basketball” in 1997 and “World Champion Broncos” in 1998. He was director of photography for the book, “A Day in the Life of America” in 1986 and was a photographer on four other “Day in the Life” books.  He produced the 25th anniversary commemoreative book for the Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado in 2005

In 1989, he was producer-coordinator for the Brian Lanker project, “ I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women who Changed America,” which included both a book, now in its 15th printing, and two traveling exhibitions.  It become the second best-selling picture book ever in America.   Portfolios of pictures were reprinted in the National Geographic, U. S. News & World Report and LIFE magazines in addition to major  display in many American newspapers.

Rich Clarkson and Associates have produced 21 other hardback books ranging in subject from “Notre Dame Football Today” to “Small Town America.”  Clarkson was a principal designer and curator for the NCAA Hall of Champions, a 12,000-square foot museum of college sports memorabilia and pictures in the NCAA headquarters building formerly in suburban Kansas City.  As a continuing consultant to the NCAA, the company photographs all 88 NCAA national championships and has created a digital on-line picture service to market  those pictures along with the lifetime collection of the Clarkson files.  The company conceived and produced exhibitions and the coffeetable book making the 100th anniversary of the NCAA in 2006.

He photographed his 502nd Final Four in 2007 and as such, was the subject of an hour-long ESPN documentary first shown in March of 2005.

Still active as a magazine photographer, Clarkson has worked regularly over the years, under contract to Sports Illustrated, Time and Life.  He photographed seven summer and one winter Olympics, organizing all picture coverage for Time at Munich in 1972 and Montreal in 1976 and for Sports Illustrated at Moscow in 1980.  He was a consultant to the Los Angeles Organizing Committee in 1984.  He was manager of all photography for the Main Olympic Stadium at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics .

He produced with curator Jane Livingston and Pindar Press of New York an exhibition of 150 years of sports photography, “Visions of Victory.” Sponsored by Champion International, opening at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics.

A one-man exhibition of his portraits of America’s great collegiate athletes and coaches, “The Champions,” opened at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis in 2004 which is traveling to other venues today. Two of his photographs were selected for the permanent collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

Published in 2007 is a commemorative book for Arlington National Cemetery, “Where Valor Rests.”  A copy is presented to each family at the close of funeral services at Arllington.  A retail version of the book was published by National Geographic books with Random House.  An exhibition of pictures opened in the Visitors Center at the Cemetery May 18, 2007.  The retail version of the book quickly made the New York Times best seller list and the book went into a second printing.  It was featured in a cover story in American Photo magazine in May, was excerpted in 20 pages in the June issue of the National Geographic magazine and was featured on the Lehrer New House and on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.