DENVER, CO – Steven R. Nickerson is having a hard time believing what’s happened over the last few weeks. With each passing day another box or carton or tube arrives with incredible signed prints from photojournalists all over the world, prints donated to a March 23 auction in Denver to benefit his healthcare. Nickerson is a Rocky Mountain News photographer suffering from systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and he needs an incredibly expensive set of treatments to fend off the effects of the disease. So his friends in Denver and around the world organized the print auction as a way of doing what they can to help out one of their own, an offbeat guy with a wacky sense of humor who inevitably endears himself in one way or another to almost everyone he meets.
This week Nickerson, 48, wrote a note to friends: “I just lost my virginity! I just opened a genuine Eugene Richards print! Don’t touch me; I ain’t gonna wash any of me for a month!” As excited as he is, he also managed to report that the selection of auction prints is up to 180 framed photographs. “The studio is filled with boxes … FILLED!”
The idea for a print auction started a couple of months ago. News photographers Dennis Schroeder and Ellen Jaskol, and Denver Post photographer Steve Dykes, and Kim Nguyen of the Associated Press, and others who have been working behind the scenes, got the ball rolling. A story about Nickerson, Steven R. Nickerson: As Rare As Hen’s Teeth, spread the word via the Internet and helped to put out a global call for donations. The photojournalism community responded wholeheartedly and within days signed prints were pouring in from around the world from famous photojournalists, from Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalists, and from photographers who just care and who have heart and who want to do something to help.
The auction will be held on March 23, 2006, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Denver time) at the Oxford Hotel at 1659 Wazee Street in Denver, CO, 80202. An online invitation to the auction night is here. Eugene Richards is scheduled to give a one-hour presentation of his work before the auction begins.
Some of the donated prints are truly remarkable, and this is a rare opportunity to be able to buy a signed copy of these pictures. In addition to the Richards’ donation, prints have come in from David Turnley, Rich Clarkson, John G. Morris, Nick Ut, James Nachtwey, John Stanmeyer, Alexandra Boulat, and Gary Knight. Brian Lanker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1973, donated five prints including photographs from his book, I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America. Two of Lanker’s prints in the benefit auction are portraits of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King.
Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) is a rare, chronic, often progressive, autoimmune disease that translated literally means “hard skin.” The body’s immune system turns on its own tissues, attacking the skin, internal organs, and the walls of blood vessels. It is treatable, but not curable. Survivability is dictated by the degree to which the internal organs are involved. Nickerson says that in his case, the disease has primarily invested itself in his muscles and rendered them “dormant.”
Nickerson was diagnosed with the disease in January 2004 after two years of investigating his illness and not discovering what it was. He worked until he was unable to physically do the job of being a photojournalist.
The treatments he needs cost $35,000 each, and he needs 6 to 13 of them if he’s to make any headway against the disease. Nickerson’s insurance covered the first two treatments, he says, before they “backed out” by deciding that the treatments were “experimental,” leaving him to foot the bill for his medical care. That’s when friends and coworkers decided something had to be done to help.
To ship a print to Schroeder, please address it to:
The Rocky Mountain News
100 Gene Amole Way
Denver, CO, USA, 80204
Read an earlier story, Steven R. Nickerson: As Rare As Hen's Teeth