Photo legends at work in Pikes Peak region

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Those familiar with the rich photographic history of the Pikes Peak region know all about the works of William Henry Jackson, Laura Gilpin and Myron Wood.

They came to Colorado Springs for a variety of reasons, and their work here lives on even after their deaths.

But other photographers followed in their footsteps — and a few of those are still very much at work. Among those are two local legends who decided to spend their later years in Southern Colorado.

Robert “Bob” Jackson — a longtime photojournalist who is known for his iconic photo of Jack Ruby murdering presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald — moved here in 1980 to finish his career as a photographer for The Gazette, and Larry Hulst, who had a prolific career in rock ’n’ roll photography in the San Francisco Bay Area music scene of the 1960s, moved here for a civil service job with the Air Force in 1993.

Bob Jackson received a Pulitzer Prize for capturing the moment Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated President John Kennedy. Jackson now lives in the Pikes Peak region.

Robert “Bob” Jackson

Jackson’s lifelong passion for photography began when he was a child in his hometown of Dallas.

“I don’t know what started it all, but when I was about 12, I just thought it would be nice to take pictures,” the 81-year-old said. “It was just a hobby, and it turned into a career eventually.”

After snapping his first frame with a Kodak Brownie camera before moving on to a 35mm Argus, Jackson worked for the school yearbook and newspaper staffs, and occasionally submitted photos to the local daily newspaper. But things really took off for him when he started college at Southern Methodist University and met Carroll Shelby, a racer and mechanic who later created the “Shelby” Mustang.

“I hung around the shop so much they called me ‘Three Quarter Jackson,’ because I was spending three-quarters of my time there,” he said. “I got hooked.”

Because he was too young to race, Jackson said he had to be content with photographing the racers.

Before he could graduate from SMU, Jackson dropped out in 1958 to join the Army on a program that allowed six months of active duty followed by 7 1/2 years of reserve service. He continued to hone his skills as a photographer. And rather than pursue commercial photography, Jackson chose a life of excitement as a photojournalist.

In 1960, he got a job in the photo department of the Dallas Times Herald.

“That was the beginning of 40 years of it,” he said.

Three years later, Jackson was given an assignment to photograph President John F. Kennedy during what would become an infamous day in U.S. history. On Nov. 22, 1963, Jackson, then 29, was to photograph Kennedy and his entourage as they arrived at Love Field and follow the presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas.

“I was pretty nervous when Kennedy came to town,” Jackson said. “I felt that I really had to get some good pictures. … I knew my equipment and knew my settings, and I felt like I was ready.”

As the caravan entered Dealey Plaza, shots rang out. As Kennedy slumped over in the seat of his convertible, Jackson looked up instinctively and saw Oswald’s sniper rifle being drawn in from the sixth floor of the book depository building. In the process of loading another roll of film in his camera, Jackson realized he had missed some of the most historically important shots of the 20th century.

Devastated that he had missed such an opportunity, Jackson went downtown two days later — his day off — to photograph what was to be a routine transfer of Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the jail.

As Oswald was walked out in handcuffs, Jackson noticed someone step into his frame and saw a camera flash. Realizing that Jack Ruby had pulled a gun on the assassin, Jackson pressed the shutter release on his Nikon S3 35mm rangefinder camera just as Ruby pulled the trigger. And the rest is history.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for photography for the photo, and then spent a few more years in Dallas. He moved to the Denver Post for a year in 1968, but returned to Texas the following year. But he says he never could shake what he called the “Colorado itch.”

“Our family had gone to Colorado on vacation, so I someday wanted to live in Colorado,” he said.

After working another few years for the Times Herald and as a freelancer for six years, he said he “was getting the itch to go back to Colorado.”

In 1980, he got a job in Colorado Springs on the photo desk at the paper then known as the Gazette-Telegraph and moved to Chipita Park with his children.

“I missed the people and the events I was able to cover in Dallas, but I loved living in Chipita Park,” he said. “I felt like I was on vacation, even when I was working.”

Jackson is retired now and lives with his wife in Manitou Springs, where he enjoys photographing wildlife in his backyard. He has since switched to a Nikon digital camera, which he uses to document grandchildren — instead of national tragedies.

Larry Hulst made a career of photographing rock stars, starting in San Francisco in the 1960s. Now living in Colorado Springs, he still attends local concerts, capturing rock history in the making.

Larry Hulst

Hulst, a Sacramento native, joined the Army in 1965 and bought his first camera on the way to Vietnam in 1968.

When he returned from the war in 1969, San Francisco was exploding with sound — and Hulst, an avid music fan, loved every minute of it.

After being recruited to work as a photographer for the staff of his college paper,
he soon began carrying his camera with him to San Francisco’s Fillmore West and other venues to see bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead, not realizing his work’s significance.

“I started taking photos and liked the results, so I saw it as something interesting to do instead of standing around with my hands in my pockets,” he said. “I thought everyone was taking photographs of rock ’n’ roll shows. I didn’t think of it as important at the time … but that changes after 45 years. It’s basically documenting history.”

The major event in Hulst’s life, to which he attributes his commercial success, was meeting Russell Solomon, the founder of Tower Records in Sacramento. Solomon invited Hulst to sell his photographs in front of his stores, and Hulst took him up on the idea. He sold 8×10 prints of rock stars for $5 each in front of Solomon’s two stores in the Bay Area for 18 years, while also working in civil service for the Air Force.

“If it weren’t for Russ Solomon letting me sell photos in front of his stores and the Air Force letting me process my own film in their darkrooms, I probably wouldn’t still be doing this today,” he said.

The Air Force is also responsible for Hulst’s relocation to Colorado in 1993.

“My job at Mather Air Force Base came to an end because they closed the base,” he said. “I was unemployed for about a week before I received a call about a job opening in Colorado Springs. … I needed to make some money, so we came out here. Now it looks like we’ll never go back to California — this is too nice, and we have enough music here to keep me entertained.”

After nearly 50 years of shooting — during which he has seen around 3,500 different acts, including the Rolling Stones at Altamont and The Band’s “Last Waltz” — Hulst can still be found with his Nikon at shows in Colorado Springs and Denver. He maintains a passion for discovering up-and-coming young bands.

“I love getting out there to see whoever’s playing,” he said. “What’s exciting about live music is you have no idea what’s going to happen or how important it is until you leave … and then you’re like, ‘Where are they playing next?’”

Hulst, now 69, lives in the Ivywild neighborhood and recently completed a traveling exhibit of his rock ’n’ roll photography. He continues to showcase his photography in museums in the region.


Bob Jackson RETROSPECTIVE

Opening reception

Friday, Nov. 6

5:30-9:30 p.m.

Exhibition runs Nov. 6-30

GO-SEE Art Exhibition Venue at Godec’s Photo Supply

25 S. Sierra Madre St.

634-8833

Bob Jackson will be speaking and answering questions on two separate dates:

Wednesday, Nov. 11, and Thursday, Nov. 19

Doors open 6:30 p.m., presentation 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Capacity limited to 20 people per evening.

Free and open to the public.

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