Editorials, Opinion

In honor of a pioneering photographer

DP’s Ron Rittenhouse receives MLK Jr. award

West Virginia University’s Center for Black Culture and Research is honoring photographer Ron Rittenhouse as a “pioneer,” because when he first came to work at The Dominion Post 52 years ago, Ron was one of only two Black photographers operating in the state. Ron is receiving the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, and the video of the presentation will be available at https://cbc.wvu.edu/ starting tomorrow.

We like the way Marjorie Fuller, the center’s director, phrased it: Ron didn’t kick down doors; he merely walked through them with grace and confidence. Because that sounds exactly like Ron.

To those relatively new to The Dominion Post, Ron is a fixture as essential and permanent as the presses in the back and the exceptional photographs hung in the halls. Ron’s presence here is just a fact of life: The sky is blue; the grass is green; Ron is our chief photographer and he always delivers stunning photos. We take for granted the trails he blazed and the career he built.

But the longtime staff have a better idea of the legacy Ron has created. He is our standard bearer, and he set the example to which we hold all other photographers. His professionalism is incredible; over 50-plus years, we have never received a complaint about the way he has handled himself while out on the job. And that includes years of photographing both celebrations and tragedies. Sometimes, Ron is tasked with capturing images of the worst day of someone’s life — a car wreck, a fire — and he approaches those occasions with the utmost respect and compassion.

Ron has also led this paper through decades of technology changes. From pictures taken on film and brought to life in a dark room (which got moved a half dozen times or so over the years — sorry, Ron!) to digital cameras and editing photos on the computer (which has been only been moved a few times), he keeps us at the forefront of technological developments.

Ron is a hard worker and always brings photos of amazing quality. His eye for detail and composition is impeccable. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but Ron’s are worth far more: He captures the heart or emotion of a moment or tells us a story in images.

And while you, our readers, may be more familiar with the work than the man, those of us in the newsroom know Ron best for his big grins and good-natured teasing. He can draw a smile out of anyone, and the room feels a little bit brighter once he walks in. We are lucky — and thankful — to have the privilege of working with him.

We are proud of Ron’s extraordinary talents and his remarkable legacy. It’s not often we get to brag about one of our own, and we are grateful to the community for recognizing him and for giving us the opportunity to opine about how wonderful Ron is. We can think of no one better to receive the MLK Jr. Achievement Award.