by Jim Colton

Rich Clarkson by Barry Gutierrez / Rocky Mountain News 2005

There’s an old adage in the photo business that says, “We ride on the shoulders of the great photographers that came before us.” We study photographic history in an effort to discover new ways to tell our stories. And along the way we may be fortunate enough to meet one of those “great” ones. Rich Clarkson is one of those greats.

A larger than life personality, Clarkson is perceived by some in the industry as being a bulldog. But during a conversation over a Steak Diane (his favorite) and an occasional libation (also his favorite) I discovered that his bark is worse than his bite. The Octogenarian with a wry smile is a kindred spirit and shares his time and wisdom eagerly, especially with young photojournalists craving to learn.

On April 6th, when the last four teams enter the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the NCAA Division I Basketball Championships, Rich Clarkson will be courtside, camera in hand, for the 59th consecutive year -- a truly remarkable achievement! 

But in addition to being sports photography’s “King of the Court,” Clarkson has also managed to remain at the top of his game as a teacher, editor and businessman, staying relevant and vital as the industry changes around him. 

This week, in a two-part Photo Journal, we talk with the “Gentle Giant” about the dual threads in his photographic life. In Part One, we will trace the thread basketball has woven in his journey. In Part Two, Clarkson shares his thoughts on his long career, “talent spotting,” and the genesis of Rich Clarkson & Associates.

Part One: He's Got Game

Part Two: The Clarkson Machine