People Who Inspire – Ed Cope on life through the camera lens

Ed Cope - Feature For Ed Cope, life is a series of photographs. Put them together and you’ll see a moving picture of his career in local news. With each frame is another reflection of a day in his life – and ours too.

During the course of his nearly 50 year career, he’s covered every major news-happening for The Daily Courier, the Tribune-Review’s Fay-West Edition and the Herald Standard newspapers. The photos he captured from the 1970’s through the 1990’s made headlines.

The Best Shot

Among them, perhaps his most enduring image – the rescue of Connellsville resident Sally Harrer from her apartment fire on December 14, 1994.

After taking some quick photos, he rushed over to see who the victim was and discovered she was a former Daily Courier co-worker who had become disabled. The two hugged before she was whisked off into the ambulance.

Ed Cope - epic fire photoThis scene almost didn’t take place. A Fay-West Tribune photographer at the time, Ed was at The Daily Courier in Connellsville, PA on an errand. That’s when he ran into sports editor, Paul Schofield, who told him there was a fire several blocks away on Freeman Lane.

“I got in my car and drove the quickest way there. As I was pulling in I could see the flames. I looked in the back of my car and didn’t have my work camera so I grabbed my personal camera with 50 mm lens and put a roll of color film in.

As the firetruck arrived, three policemen were carrying her out. I was able to get a dozen shots at the most. I just aimed and shot. The action was coming towards me. I was able to capture a lot of emotion. I knew I had a very good spot news photo and couldn’t wait to get back to the dark room.”

After hand processing the image, Ed called Frank Myers, the city editor at the Greensburg office and told him, ‘Frank, I think I just took the best news shot I’ve ever taken.”

He was right. The photo earned local, state and national awards and was chosen as one of the top 600 photos for the century in 2000 by Associated Press.

Help Wanted

Like that image, Ed’s newspaper career may not have happened if he hadn’t had such a strong desire to succeed and been at the right place at the right time.

In 1966, after having done a two year stint in The Daily Courier mail room and serving in the National Guard, the Connellsville Joint High School graduate was working at Keystone Fireworks. That’s when reporter, Bob Broderick, who was leaving The Daily Courier, encouraged Ed to apply for an open photographer position with the newspaper.

“I told him, ‘I don’t know anything about a camera. They’ll teach you,’ he said. Ed applied and landed the job. His teacher became Ken Bolden, whom Ed described as “a one man photography department”.

Ed Cope - at typewriterOne year later, however, Ken unexpectedly passed away and Ed was on his own. He taught himself photography, took classes and was sent to a reporter seminar to learn to write.

Ups and Downs

While improving his skills, he was joined on staff by photographer Charlie Rosendale. The two became friends and started a photography business while working together.

In 1980, they went separate ways when Charlie accepted a position with the Herald Standard. One year later Ed took a job with the Daily Sunday Tribune in Monroeville. His new boss was Warren Leeder, who he had worked with years before in The Daily Courier mail room.

This career move would be short lived. “One and a half year later, on the day after Thanksgiving in 1982, we had a big staff cut back and I didn’t have a job. I restarted my business again with Charlie and was able to get some stringer work with the Herald Standard. I had to do whatever I could to make a few bucks. I had two little children and no insurance.

Warren told me, ‘You’re down at the bottom of the ocean. You can’t go anywhere but up.’”

Six months later, life did get better when Ed was hired by the Fay-West Tribune. It was during the next nearly 20 years he spent there that he captured his famous fire rescue photo and was named bureau chief. It didn’t come easy.

A Learning Experience

“I didn’t care for the writing end of it. I pushed myself every day to have a story. There was a lot of pressure. Bob Broderick moved back over and became my boss. He was very kind to me. I was very fortunate to work with him.

It was a learning experience. I covered meetings because I had to. Sometimes you have to do a job you don’t like and continue with it until something comes along.”

A more enjoyable opportunity did come along when Ed took a photography position with the Herald Standard newspaper and finished his career as its chief photographer.

“You make decisions in life and you hope you make the right decision. It’s a gut feeling this is what you have to do,” he said.

Through the Lens

Now retired, the award-winning photographer shares his work in classrooms and with organizations. In 2012, his photography was exhibited at the Fayette County Library as its Artist of the Month.

Ed Cope - B SmithEd Cope - Jessica

"Howdy" VanSickle leads the wagon train on its journey through an early morning fog.The 36th annual National Road Festival got off to an early start Friday morning as they left Addison, Somerset County and headed west along Route 40 towards Fayette County.

“Howdy” VanSickle leads the wagon train on its journey through an early morning fog.The 36th annual National Road Festival got off to an early start Friday morning as they left Addison, Somerset County and headed west along Route 40 towards Fayette County.

Among his portfolio are these Tribune-Review photographs of model, TV personality and New York City restaurant entrepreneur B. Smith, who grew up in the small nearby town of Everson, PA; Jessica, a young girl afflicted with Progeria, a progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly; and the wagon train heading through fog on its National Road journey.

Reflections of Life

On his own new journey now, Ed and his wife, Susan, spend time in Florida every winter where they have family, including two of his three children and friends.

Ed Cope - Beach light scene“I walk three miles a day on the beach and reflect on a lot of things in my life; photos I’ve done; people I’ve met; stories I wrote. I met so many different people from all walks of life and put their stories into words and photos.”

His Life Story

Ed said he is grateful to the people, including Bob Broderick, Ken Bolden, Warren Leeder, and his good friend, Charlie Rosendale, who encouraged him and helped him along the way.

He commented, “Charlie was dealing with cancer for 13 years and never missed a day of work. Before he passed away in 2003, I was taking him to therapy and doctor’s appointments at Cleveland Clinic. It was an inspiration to see how he fought that dreaded disease.”

“Life has been a roller coaster ride with ups and downs. I’ve been broke and down at my lowest point, but I always tried to pull myself back up. I’ve been very fortunate to have people touch my life. They have inspired me.”

And he has paid it forward. “I have gotten great satisfaction out of helping young people search out careers in newspaper and photography,” he said.

Colored My World

After his mother, Matilda, passed away this past fall, Ed discovered a box she tucked away in her closet. It included his baby book of pictures that he never knew existed. His parent’s wedding book with cards still inside. And thousands of photo negatives from his career.

Sorting through them, he remarked, “They’ve colored my world with appreciation. I am blessed.

Life is good.”

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: