Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Guest Post by Chris Pash

Ed (Eduard) Smidt

Born: Haarlem, Holland, October 7, 1946

Died: Saturday, July 17, 2010

By Chris Pash

Ed Smidt recorded the major events and the community heart of Albany, sometimes putting himself at risk to get that perfect news photograph, for several decades.

The press photographer died aged 63 at home in Albany from a brain tumour. His funeral is at 11am Friday, July 23, Allambie Park.

Ed Smidt was equally comfortable cajoling a pop star, such as Marcia Hines, to perform for his lens as he was climbing a chimney to get one last shot or running into a burning building or swimming through storm waters to a stranded ship or helping a friend pull his boat from the water during the long night of Cyclone Alby in 1978 and still getting that defining photograph.

As a boy he loved to watch the whale chasers at the Town Jetty. As a photographer he went with the whalers to hunt sperm whales many times, starting in the 1960s and to the end of whaling in November 1978.

His photographic record of the people, ships and whales is unmatched. Fifty-four of his images are on permanent display at Whale World in the Colin Green Heritage Gallery.

He won awards (Provincial Press Photographic Award 1972) for the Albany Advertiser and created headlines.

Following his personal interest in the natural world, he convinced a local fisherman to be an accomplice in one of his many planned adventures; a drop off at Eclipse Island, a dangerous job even in good weather.

After a few days photographing the island’s wildlife, he waited to be picked up. And waited. The weather was so bad no boat could get close and a helicopter couldn’t land for almost a week. His plight made the front page news. He later said the mutton birds were starting to look tasty.

He also gave to written journalism. Many cadet reporters went on to long and successful careers after being guided by Ed in the art of gathering news.

Ed Smidt had a wild man image, throwing himself physically into his job and life. But he had a gentle way of connecting with people. The news came to him because people knew he was one of them, understood them and that they would get a fair hearing.

Later in life when a heart condition barred him from the stress of daily press work, he quietly used his camera to capture images for future generations such as the district’s old shearing sheds, local characters, the grounded whale chaser the Cheynes II and wildflowers.

He came to Western Australia as a nine-year-old on January 10, 1956, from Holland with his father Geert, his mother Aagje (ne Sluis) and older brother, John. They settled in Albany because the sponsoring family, also of Dutch origins, lived there. His jobs included wood cutter, night club bouncer, apprentice mechanic and driver of an algae harvesting boat on Princess Royal Harbour. He taught himself navigation and twice sailed a yacht to South Africa and several times to Tasmania.

Ed Smidt is survived by his partner Lynn Tulipan whom he met as a child at Albany’s Lockyer Primary School and Ingrid Smidt, his daughter from a previous relationship with Karen Sigley.

(Chris Pash worked as a cadet reporter with Ed Smidt at the Albany Advertiser 1975-78.)

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