News Column

New Kensington Camera Club celebrates life, work of Eddie Adams with photo exhibit

June 8, 2014

By Jodi Weigand, The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa.

June 08--Of all the photos Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams captured, his sisters say one of a New York City apartment building on the nation's bicentennial is one of their favorites.

It shows 21 floors of people gathered on their balconies watching the July 4 parade.

"I'm a people watcher, and you can see here what every­body is doing on the Fourth of July," said sister Beverly Klemzak of Palm City, Fla. "I asked him for a blown-up one right when he first took it because I loved it."

It's a far cry from Adams' moving war photography, including one of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner that earned him the Pulitzer.

Many of his war photographs, the apartment building shot and photos of Fidel Castro, Louis Armstrong and Muhammad Ali were featured at Saturday's Eddie Adams Day exhibit at the Alle-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum.

The New Kensington Camera Club helps organize the event, which for the past three years has been held around Adams' June 12 birthday.

Adams began his photography career in his hometown of New Kensington. He worked for the New Kensington Daily Dispatch, which became the Valley News Dispatch, and did wedding photography before joining the Marines.

"He had a great local impact: he came back for shows here at the museum," said Don Henderson, camera club president. "How many small towns can claim a Pulitzer Prize winner?"

Each year, Klemzak and Adams' two other sisters, Darlene Schimelfanick of Ocala, Fla., and JoAnne Holka of Mantua, Ohio, have attended the day of events to honor their brother and his work.

Schimelfanick said she would like to see the event grow and benefit research into Lou Gehrig's Disease, from which Adams died in 2004.

The camera club has some ideas on how to garner more interest, said Bill Hall, camera club treasurer.

They would like to feature a specific aspect of Adams' life for future exhibits, so people can learn about his life during the time he was taking photos in the Marine Corps; his Parade magazine photos; and his establishment of Barnstorm: The Eddie Adams Workshop, which is a free photography class for which students' acceptance is based on merit.

Featuring Adams' work from his stint at Penthouse could be dicey, though, Hall said with a laugh.

His time there "was just another challenge," Adams says in "An Unlikely Weapon -- The Eddie Adams Story."

The hourlong documentary was shown during the Saturday event.

Linda Henkel of Lower Burrell said the film depicted Adams' personality just as she remembered it from when she met him about 20 years ago at an event in New Kensington.

"He was very personable and earthy," she said. "He was able to touch and reach out to, as they said in the movie, coal miners to kings."

She said she came to the exhibit because Adams is important to the community.

"He's an amazing man who shared our common roots," Henkel said. "When I think about where his talent took him, but his roots were here -- I think that's a testimony to our area, to the people with whom he grew up, his neighbors."

Amateur photographers at the exhibit said Adams' photos are an inspiration to them.

"Eddie Adams was more than a photographer; he was an artist," said Anthony Sandrick, who writes and photographs for Springdale'sMarine Corps League 827 newsletter. "He was able to capture a moment and freeze it in time."

The day culminated with the Eddie Adams Day dinner at the Hillcrest Country Club in Lower Burrell.

Valley News Dispatch chief photographer Eric Felack was the featured speaker.

He talked about Adams' legacy of giving back to his hometown even after becoming famous. Adams agreed to judge local photography contests and would return to New Kensington for community events.

"He didn't have to," Felack said. "He never forgot where he came from."

That aspect of Adams' life is what the camera club is hoping will help them get a Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Adams in New Kensington in time for next year's tribute.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or


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Source: Valley News-Dispatch (Tarentum, PA)

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