James L. Haglund, my dad

Dad in front of one of the big towers in Shanghai.

“Mer,”says Dad. Not really of course. Yes, he’ll make sounds and grumbles as he goes through the day but, as he says, “I’m not the dog.” Our first dog, Henry used to “Moo” as he sat or laid down. Dad thinks that’s where we got it from.

Really, the whole “Mer” thing is something that I think my brothers and I just kind of stumbled upon. It’s a good approximation of the some of his hemming and hawing, without having a positive or negative connotation. Moreover, it’s an excellent tool in doing imitations of Dad, which is probably the real reason for its popularity and continued use.

Dad during his cool phase, from approximately November of 1976 through March of 1977 when he finally cut his hair.

Dad is smart. Dad is kind. And Dad is funny. Very funny, in fact. He has a kind constant dry sarcasm. He observes all and will constantly throw out puns and wordplay, which while not as funny as his less intentional humor, set the scene. He knows these aren’t funny exactly, but they are clever and the overall effect is very entertaining. I see this now as I grow older and find myself making the same types of throwaway cracks.

There are other things too. My dad has a sheepish little half smile. All who love Jim know this. Half is trying to be serious. The other half is an acknowledgement that, yes, whatever is happening right now is kind of funny, he just sort of wishes it weren’t happening to him.

Dad prefers to be underestimated. He’s brilliant, skilled and due to his, ahem, advanced age, experienced. Some this may stand out to me more than other family members. We both are working in the same accursed field, something that I swear, I had no intention of happening back when I was in high school.

Dad’s chosen profession is as a journalist, where he’s been working, for a major newspaper, for more years than I’ve been around. All through my life, he’s played off that he’s not very good, exactly, just doing his job, a sort of C-student editor. But he’s not- he’s amazing.

“Did you just take my picture?”
“No.”
“OK”

The first clues came when I was younger and would pick my Dad up from birthday or retirement or work celebration parties with his paper friends. His pal/immediate superior came up to me, after having as many as Dad had, would tell me how great Jim was, how he pulled everything together, how it couldn’t happen without him. Dad would write this off as bullshit.

But, in college, a young photographer decided to try working for the school paper, run from a journalism school which he had two former colleagues working in. That student became a photojournalist. In the years that followed, he eventually began to work at a small-town paper where he filled a number of roles, including that of a reporter, and Dad’s abilities would make themselves clear.

My Dad and my friend Mark’s Dad, Norman. Presumably discussing Dad things like, I don’t know, pipe tamping, slipper wearing, whiskey drinking and newspaper reading while waiting for dinner to be made. Not really sure, not a Dad yet.

Working to get my paper put together on a Monday or Wednesday evening is a whole new ballfield when Dad is in town. He looks over the pages and each thing he tells me not only helps the publication, but also is an epiphany to me, each something I had never realized but would now never forget. Some of these are basic rules and ideas that, had I taken newswriting 101, or whatever my poor reporter D.E. Chums had to take, I would have known. Others are design and layout ideas. My Dad, a designer, who would have known?

Seriously, this guy is damn good at what he does.

Of course, it’s not the what of working with him, but the how. Things move quicker, but they’re higher quality and the whole newspaper flows better. He can motivate not by discipline but by bringing you in on a vision of a better paper, something that you can see your part in and are happy to do. This is how I learn, truly and in my heart, that editing is not proofreading. I had known the difference but when I really get to see it in action, it’s my own Dad.

Except of course, when it comes to try to shoot mini golf as pool. Seriously, right into the windmill.

Dad will probably deny all this. He’ll be embarrassed. But he’s good at what he does. He is a good Dad, just like he’s a good journalist. But talking about that is not so straightforward as talking about his editing. Still, maybe he should at least be told it, so that he’ll have to deny it, or play it off as bullshit. He may say that it was all my Mother, about whom he could truthfully say that he “Couldn’t have done it without her. Still, credit where credit is due: Jim Haglund is my Dad. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Dad, with the rest of the family, while garbed in the traditional tribal attire of the American Father, the Hawaiian shirt.

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It takes a lot to know a photographer….

Especially when they’re in college. College photographers have to take a lot of images, hopefully any photographer does. I’d like to say it was because I had assignments then, but working at a paper, I still do. Anyways at least as much time is spent by college photographers haranguing their friends, families and casual acquaintances into taking pictures as is spent on, well, actually taking them.

Some folks, like Dad here, are gotten out of the way early.

My Dad, Jim Haglund. came to visit me at school and got his photo taken as a brooding candid.

My Dad, Jim Haglund. came to visit me at school and got his photo taken as a brooding candid.

The secret to this lovely picture is that he was tying his shoe. Shot with a Hasselblad 501CM with an 80 mm lens, exposure was a how-did-I-manage-to-get-it-sharp 1/15 second at f 2.8, iso 800 color negative film (fuji NPH, I think). The shoe goes on, he hears that wonderful Blad leaf shutter and the -thunk- of the mirror and says “Don’t take my picture,” but the damage is done. I have never gotten him in a posed picture that I was anywhere near as happy with as this.  The only problem is that my Dad doesn’t have any musical talent and I think this would make a great CD cover. “Jazz with Jim” anyone? A quick note: I certainly don’t remember the dust spots being this bad in the past. I bet it’s the computers fault.

Soon, you start going to other relatives as well. If you follow the wrinkles-are-character line of reasoning (and what student photographer doesn’t), you either head to the old folks home or get a grandparent to pose.

My grandfather, Alexander L. Haglund. Name sounds familiar, don't it?

My grandfather, Alexander L. Haglund. Name sounds familiar, don't it?

This is my namesake, or one of them anyways. Alexander Luther Haglund, my grandfather and father of that guy that’s above him. Shot with a 4X5, 150 mm lens, I’m going to guess on the exposure and say f22 at an inconsequential 1/125 of a second. This photograph was lit by a single diffused 60 inch umbrella on a Calumet 750 w/s travelite, probably at full power. I honestly don’t remember the film, but it seems there’s a good chance it’s Kodak Portra 160VC. Just guessing. Unfortunately, grandpa has passed out of this existence, depriving me of my very favorite conversational partner. Good thing I’ve got the memories.

Yep, Alexander L. Haglund. One of two namesakes as I said. I’m Alexander C. Haglund. And that “C” didn’t just come out of thin air. Sure enough my other grandfather, Clarence Komaniecki has posed as well. Along with him is a my only still living grandparent, my maternal grandmother, Annette Komaniecki.

My maternal Grandparents, Clarence and Annette Komaniecki, known to us grandkids as Grandpa Pens and Grandma Kitty

My maternal Grandparents, Clarence and Annette Komaniecki, known to us grandkids as Grandpa Pens and Grandma Kitty

This was taken as my gift for their 50th wedding anniversary. I was working with the first of my two photographic mentors at the time and he had a studio in Chicago, which he was gracious enough to let me use. Being as this mentor was a former youth group advisor of mine, he was genuinely interested in meeting my grandparents. My grandparents were interested in the fact that his studio was a loft. “I can’t wait to tell all of my New York friends that we got to go into a loft,” said my grandmother. They resided in Sun City in Tucson; Grandma still does. So that where the “C” comes from. And if you look at my photo, you can see that while I may have inherited my first name from Grandpa Haglund, I inherited my looks from Grandpa Pens, who referred to me as his “clone.” As for the photo, it was shot with a 4X5 camera on either Polaroid Type 55 P/N or Ilford HP5. I’m fairly sure it was Type 55, but I don’t want to be accused of lying. I just don’t remember and we shot both that day. Exposure was around 1/60 of a second at f22 at iso 50 (or 320 if it was the HP5). Lighting was a single 60 inch diffused umbrella on a Speedotron 2400 w/s head, held very high and nearly at center.

So this one took up more space than I thought. Part 2 is younger relatives and fellow college students (most of whom were photographers and had it coming anyway).