PHOTOJOURNALIST | MENTOR
By Howard Wilkinson, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Photographer Ed Reinke, who practiced his art for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Associated Press for nearly 40 years, had the strong hands to hold a camera steady in anticipation.
He had the keen and unflinching eyes to tell him the precise second to press the shutter to make the perfect image.
But, most of all, his friends and colleagues say, he had the heart – the heart to throw himself body and soul into his work, the heart to produce work that could evoke in the viewer every possible human emotion, the heart to share his skill and knowledge with younger photographers who had not seen so much of the world as he had in his long career.
"He had the knack to see pictures in places where no one else could see them," said his longtime friend, Brian Horton, the former senior photo editor at the Associated Press, who went to school with Mr. Reinke at Indiana University and worked alongside him in Cincinnati.
Edward J. Reinke – an Indiana native who lived on a farm near Glencoe, Ky., with his wife Tori – died in Oct. 18, 2011 at the age of 60 at the St. Elizabeth Medical Center hospice in Edgewood.
He had been hospitalized since Oct. 2, 2011 when he fell and suffered a head injury while covering an Indy car race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
A Facebook page – called To Ed Reinke! – was created shortly after he was hospitalized.
By Wednesday afternoon, there were 461 members; the page was filled with hundreds of messages of condolence, stories about Mr. Reinke, and appreciation of the work he left behind.
The head injury that ended up taking his life happened while he was working at Kentucky Speedway, although the circumstances of the accident are still unclear.
"Our thoughts are with Ed Reinke's family and the news community on the loss of a dedicated photojournalist," Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said in a statement. "Ed possessed an excellent creative eye for capturing the essence of the events he covered. We will remember him through his legacy of lasting news and sports images."
Horton said Mr. Reinke "saw what others didn't see. He and I could walk down the same stretch of road for miles. He would come up with a dozen beautiful photographs; I'd come up with sore feet."
"Photographers have never been accused of being short of egos," Horton said. "Ed was one of the most talented I have ever known, but he had the least amount of ego I have ever seen. He was always thinking about the other person."
Enquirer photographer Michael Keating, a close friend, said his admiration for Mr. Reinke's work knows no bounds, but said it was his love of family that touched him the most.
"On a November morning in 1984, I saw, at the moment of birth, Ed's hands cradle his newborn son Wilson," Keating said. "Twenty months later, his second son, Graham, felt the loving embrace of Ed's hands. They were, as I remember, his finest moments."
He began his photojournalism career as an intern at the Enquirer in 1972, becoming a full-time photographer for the newspaper the next year.
He made what became the iconic images of the Who concert tragedy at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum in December 1979, when 11 people were killed in a stampede outside the arena.
In 1979, he went to work for the Associated Press in Cincinnati and, three years later, was a transferred to the Associated Press' Washington, D.C., bureau.
But he came back to the Enquirer in 1983 and was named director of photography the next year.
In August 1987, he returned to the Associated Press' Louisville office, become the wire service's first staff photographer in 25 years. It was there that he spent the rest of his career.
Covering big events was a hallmark of his career as a photographer. He shot the summer and winter Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, golfing's Masters and PGA tournaments, Hurricane Andrew, and the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Mr. Reinke was a fixture at Louisville' Churchill Downs, shooting every Kentucky Derby since 1988.
"But it wasn't all about the big events with Ed," Horton said. "He felt as comfortable covering the president on Air Force One as he did being at the general store in Glencoe. And, the fact is, he preferred the general store."
He could shoot presidents and earth-shaking events, but he could also walk outside the house in the morning at his Glencoe farm with his camera and find beauty in the intricacy of a dew-covered spider web and make a photo that could only be described as art.
Enquirer photographer Garrett Landers was a friend and colleague of Mr. Reinke for over 30 years.
"More than a great photographer, he was also a great person and friend – the kind of person who treated everyone with respect, no matter what their place in life," Landers said.
"I know if he were here today," Landers said, "He'd say, 'Landers, get some bullets for that shooter and get out there and make me some pictures. And don't come back until you get it right, but you only got about 10 minutes."
Charlie Fry, a retired Enquirer photo editor who worked with Mr. Reinke for 30 years, said he "thrived on making an impossible situation possible."
"Ed was a photographer, a powerful and emotional force in any room he was in, and a friend," Fry said. "Sleep peaceful, my friend."
Keating was among a group of friends and family who visited Mr. Reinke in the hospital several days before he died.
"I held Ed's hand as he lay in the hospital just a few days ago," Keating said. "Medical machines droned on; and conversation swirled in the room – words of encouragement, recollections and a hope for a miracle.
"I hoped that he heard; that maybe he was aware," Keating said. "I looked up to his face and from his right eye a tear formed and ran down his cheek. Right now, I could use a comforting hug from those big hands."
His son, Wilson Reinke, who is in his last year of medical school, said the family has been inundated with condolences from people who knew and loved his father.
"It is phenomenal to think of how many people's lives he has touched," Wilson Reinke said. "It is truly amazing."
A memorial service is being planned, Wilson Reinke said.
Mr. Reinke is survived by his wife, Tori of Glencoe; and two sons, Wilson Reinke of Louisville and Graham Reinke of Glencoe.
Memorials: Indiana University School of Journalism, Ernie Pyle Hall, 940 E. Seventh St., Bloomington, IN 47405; or Hospice Care of St. Elizabeth, 483 S. Loop Drive, Edgewood, KY 41017.
Story used by permission and published in The Cincinnati Enquirer from Oct. 19 to Oct. 27, 2011