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Lifelong photojournalist finds meaning in those facing his camera

Photographer Eliot Kaminetz with a cache of event passes

As many of you know, The Times-Picayune is about to go through a hurricane of change.  Daily publication ends Sunday. With a workday that ends at 6 tomorrow, I may well be the last one out the door, before a new three-day publication schedule starts next week.

Many of the newsroom staff didn't make the leap to the new online entity. It's also -30- for me, (old typewriter finger slamming journalistic note for 'end of story'), so I wanted to let you know something...

I'm lucky.  For 40 years I have gotten to do exactly what I wanted to do, take pictures and tell stories.  Better yet, I got paid to do this and damn, 40 years is a pretty good run.

I've photographed every United States President since Gerald Ford. England's Princess Margret sat before my lens as has Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Andy Warhol, Andre The Giant and Robert Duvall. The sweet and gracious Carroll O'Conner, yes Mr. Archie Bunker himself, stood in a patch of window light and sang Irish tunes to himself just so I could make a picture of him. I've been to seven Super Bowls and was there to photograph Drew Brees bring home the goodness and parade it through our streets. I have photographed the big, the broad and the great.

But they were not the important people.

You are.

You who stood and cried amid Katrina's slime and slag .... and then rolled up your sleeves to rebuild.

You with no real legs who ran upon artificial ones in the Crescent City Classic.

You who nursed the ill and dying or taught a 50-year-old man to read for the first time in his life.

You who scootered along with Fido strapped to your chest.

You who painted a child's face with glitter to sparkle her soul.

You who cooked the prize-winning rosemary chicken.

You who mourned at the victim's grave or a blood-spattered piece of pavement and let the world know the personal side of violence touches all.

You who dressed in your finest feather, best beads, blew the hardest notes, danced the wildest steps or sang the jazzed tunes and shared this endless cosmos of culture we call home.

And yes, you who were shackled, being led to OPP to be booked for callous murder.

You who, dishonored public office and public trust, walking head down from Federal Court.

Yes, these 40 years, it's been all about you. You are that important. You have enlightened me with your lessons more than any guru. You have made me feel richer than any king could possibly hope to be. I have photographed you and told your stories, but you have surely molded me as if God Himself had fiddled with the clay.

I thank you for this. And if tomorrow or the next, the Picayune finds me passe, don't fear, for I will still have a camera and I will not abandon you, as I know you will not abandon me.

You are that important.

Eliot Kamenitz is a New Orleans photographer. You can read more about him and contact him at his website, www.eliotkamenitz.com.