At the 2016 WPPI Awards Program I was asked to present the inaugural Bill Hurter Award of Excellence. The award honored the person who achieved the highest four scoring entries in this year’s print, album and filmmaking competition. I opened my presentation with the following comments about Bill:
“Bill was the editor-in-chief of Rangefinder Magazine for fifteen years. He played an important role in the growth of WPPI, especially in developing the speaker platform each year and building print competition. Bill is considered by most to be one of the best editors our industry has ever seen, but he was also an incredible writer, photographer and especially a great friend to so many of us…
Most of you in this room, although you may not have known Bill, have in some way been touched by his incredible influence in photography. From photographers who nobody ever heard of to the icons of today, Bill always wanted to feature creativity and cutting edge images in every issue of Rangefinder Magazine and at every convention.”
I know Bill was watching over us that night and couldn’t have been more proud. Bill loved the convention and especially print competition. Each year when it was over we’d all go into the business equivalent of postpartum depression. As the convention grew, the opportunity to not think about the next year’s show, and take some time off became less and less. We’d finally admit it was the most fun we didn’t want to do for another year and then jump into planning for the next show.
On Monday night before this year’s convention sixty of us got together for dinner just to toast and honor Bill. Story after story was told and always with the same common denominator, our love for Bill Hurter and one of the finest editors, artists and friends most of us have ever known.
Do I miss Bill? Damn right, but there’s something remarkable that happens when you lose somebody with such a big personality. They never really leave you. Every day there’s a little something that triggers a memory, a moment from the past, and in turn a smile.
A lot of people give me credit for building WPPI, but I had little to do with it. There was an amazing team behind the growth of WPPI and Rangefinder Magazine – Bill Hurter, George Varanakis and Arlene Evans. And, the four of us were backed by another team, the Rangefinder and WPPI staff. As sappy as it sounds we were a family, and over and over again we broke records for the convention, the magazine and print competition.
I caught up to Vicky Papas Vergara on an IM one day last week, just to thank her for her contribution to Bill’s memory. She wrote:
I am so grateful to you all for making me feel like part of the Wppi family and to have received The Bill Hurter Award is something l will cherish forever! Thank you so much for presenting Bill’s award, l watched it on Periscope, l can see how much you all loved Bill, l only wished l could have met him!
I asked her to send me the four images responsible for the award. Knowing Bill, each one would have been a potential cover for Rangefinder. Even better would have been the friendship that would have developed with Vicky, an artist who shared Bill’s passion for quality and never-compromising on capturing/creating the ultimate image.
So, to WPPI, thank you for the opportunity to put Bill in the spotlight. To Vicky Papas Vergara, thank you for being a remarkable artist. To all of Bill’s friends, thanks for being part of an amazing legacy.
And, to Mr. Bill – buddy, I miss you more than words can express. Thank you for all you taught me about photography, publishing and especially friendship.