Remembering Ray Farkas

Ray FarkasLegendary. Pioneering. Irrepressible. Ray Farkas was all of those things, and more. He died of colon cancer January 4, 2008; anyone who had the good fortune to know him will miss him terribly. Ray had a long career with NBC News and then launched Off Center Productions, producing a series of memorable stories for other outlets.

His stories have a quickly identifiable look through extensive use of long lenses, wireless microphones and foreground composition. He believes in conversations–not interviews, eavesdropping–not intruding, no lights, and keeping the camera far away from his subjects. He is devoted to time, place and context–little things, not big things, that television can do better than any medium. But seldom does.

Ray was a producer and director, not a photographer. But his stories had a “Farkas look” that was pure storytelling, says photojournalist Darrell Barton. Take a look at Ray’s story, Nashville, or check out his innovative series Interviews: 50 Cents, and you’ll see what TV news can be.

Ray saw a story wherever he looked. When he decided to have an experimental procedure to help him cope with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, Ray turned it into a documentary, It Ain’t Television, It’s Brain Surgery.

For years, Ray was a fixture at photojournalism workshops–a rock star, actually. To get a sense of what he means to the photojournalism community, read some of the comments on this tribute site. Then take to heart this comment by Atlanta photojournalist Scott Hedeen: “Newsrooms today could use a little Ray Farkas in them.”