In 1971, on average, a new home cost $25,250, personal income was $10,600, a gallon of gas cost 40 cents, a postage stamp was 8 cents and a movie ticket would set you back $1.50.
That year, The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, the voting age was lowered to 18 with ratification of the 26th Amendment, Disney World opened in Florida, the Soviets launched the first space station and the U.S. practiced pingpong diplomacy in China.
When he joined The Anderson Daily Bulletin’s staff as a photographer in 1971, John Cleary couldn’t have guessed all the ways the world would change over the next 51 years.
And he probably wouldn’t have guessed that he’d still be working for Anderson newspapers in 2022, more than five decades later.
During that time, I figure, John has been on duty at least 230 days a year on average for a total of about 11,750 days worked for the Daily Bulletin, The Herald and their successor, The Herald Bulletin. Conservatively, I estimate he’s averaged about four photo assignments a day. That would be nearly 46,920 photo shoots covered.
What most of our readers don’t know is that John, as our chief photographer and photo editor, spends much of his time prepping photos — his, plus those shot by photo correspondents and submitted photos from the community — for quality reproduction in publication.
He also shoots and edits photos for Madison and our other magazines, our website, coffee table books and other special publications.
One of the amazing things about John is that his dedication to the craft of photojournalism has never wavered. Whether he’s shooting a basketball game, an environmental portrait, a business groundbreaking, a fire or a police action, John always capitalizes on his instincts and his experience to get good — often excellent — photos.
If caring about quality is the hallmark of professionalism, John is the ultimate pro.
And John cares deeply about people, too. Along with Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide, he’s the person most closely associated by the public with The Herald Bulletin. That’s not only because he’s been out and about practicing his craft in the community over the past 51 years, it’s also because of the way he goes about his job.
John works like someone who is doing exactly what they love and what they were meant to do, and it shows in the rapport he develops with his photo subjects. He’s a kind, funny and good-natured man, and that’s immediately apparent when you meet him.
John is well loved and respected across the Madison County area, and he’s revered among his peers as a consummate pro.
He’s won dozens of photojournalism awards from the Indiana News Photographers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Indiana Associated Press Managing Editors and the Hoosier State Press Association. Twice, John has been chosen photographer of the year by CNHI, The Herald Bulletin’s parent company.
So, my heart sank when John walked into my office a few weeks ago and said that he wanted to talk about retirement. His last day as a staff photographer with Anderson newspapers will be Friday.
I felt better by the end of the conversation; John has agreed to continue contributing to The Herald Bulletin as a freelance photographer.
He has the energy of a person half his age, so I’m hoping that you’ll see his photos in our newspaper and other products for many years to come.
Maybe he’ll hang around long enough that the price of gas no longer matters. That might seem like a long way off, but I wouldn’t bet against John Cleary.