Photo by Tripp
My long time friend Dave Repp passed away last night. While he is now longer with us, many memories of Dave will persist for the rest of my life.
I first met Dave in 1968 when I started working in the Indiana University Photo Lab then housed in Hoosier Hall next to the field house across from Ernie Pyle. I was a graduate student at IU and Dave was a freelance photographer based in Bloomington, Ind. He also had worked in the Photo Lab as did Jerry Uelsmann, Will Counts, Jack Welpott and many others who went on to have distinguished careers. Will was a faculty member of the School of Journalism. Both Will and Dave regularly came to the Photo Lab for coffee breaks and they both participated in our Christmas party with its elaborate gift exchange.
I married Becky Brown in August of 1969. Dave convinced us we had to take a wilderness canoe trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minn. for our honeymoon. Dave took at least one wilderness canoe trip a year and sometimes more. Usually within the first 10 minutes of a visit to his house, he would show his latest trip pictures or talk about his recent trip. Naturally Dave helped us plan our honeymoon route.
One of Dave’s trips involved more people than usual so he asked if he could borrow a tent from me. He came out to the mobile home Becky and I lived in about five miles north of campus to get the tent. We enjoyed a few beers and I went to get the stuff sack with the tent in it. I had a lot camping gear in blue stuff sacks. I grabbed one. That trip of Dave’s had rain–lots of it. When the group got to the first campsite, Dave opened the stuff sack to set up the tent. It was a sleeping bag instead. People were sleeping on top on one another on that trip and a new slogan emerged, “Don’t Drink and Hand Out Tents.”
A number of words come to mind in thinking of Dave, frugal, loyal, friendly, inventive, organized, and Luddite. He was not eager to embrace technical advances in photography and I suspect that was due to his frugal nature. Why buy something new if the old stuff was working just fine?
The Photo Lab had recently purchased a stabilization print processor. This was a technical advance for those who needed to make prints fast. The print developer process was split into two solutions. The first was a typical print developer formula but without the actual developing agent. Kodak put the developing agent in the paper emulsion. The paper when passed between rollers wet with the first solution would activate the developing agent in the paper and the image would develop. The paper passed into the second solution, which rendered the unexposed silver halides not sensitive to light. As the paper emerged from the machine it was damp dry and would dry completely within a few minutes. I encouraged Dave to get such a machine but he wasn’t interested.
I drew Dave’s name for the Photo Lab Christmas party. His first instruction was to replace the light bulbs in the ceiling with the red bulbs supplied with his gift. There were assembly instructions. An empty gallon milk container had two mop sponges attached to one side. A handle from a paint roller brush was to be inserted in the finger hole of the milk container. Sponge A was soaked with solution A and Sponge B was soaked with solution B. Now Dave opened the light-tight box. An 8 x 10 photo paper was taped to the backside of the tray with waterproof tape. Dave followed the instructions and dragged the milk bottle with the two sponges across the paper. “Merry Christmas Dave,” magically appeared. Now he had a stabilization processor!
I left campus in 1973 to assume a faculty position at the University of Minnesota. One evening I picked up the phone and the conversation started like this.
“Pack your stuff.”
“Is that you Dave?” I said.
“Where are we going?”
“On a canoe trip.”
“Dave, did you remember we have a baby?”
“Oh. (pause) Well bring her along.”
Thus started perhaps our most memorable canoe trip. It certainly produced one of the most memorable pictures of our daughter. Our daughter was 13 months old.
As planning progressed, we learned that this trip was also the honeymoon trip of another couple along with another of Dave’s friends. We stopped to pitch camp on an island the first night not far from Ely, Minn. The campsite was near the tip of the island but there was a patch of brush between the campsite and the tip. We were all busy setting up camp and Jennifer, our daughter, was crawling. To keep her from crawling into the lake while our attention was diverted, I tied a rope around her waist and the other end around a tree. Dave made a picture of her tied to a tree. If you didn’t know the backstory, you would think it was the worst case of child abuse ever.
Just as we were finishing setting up camp, a black bear emerged from the brush and walked right though the center of camp.
Later in the trip just before we retired to our tents, we made popcorn in a large pot. Shaking a pot over a campfire does pop corn but also produces some burnt kernels. Rather than clean the pot while fighting the mosquitos, Dave put some water in the pot to loosen the burnt corn. He would clean out the pot in the morning. I was first up to make coffee. In the pot were about 15 dead mice. They went over the edge for the corn but couldn’t get out and drowned. Dave was not happy to clean out that pot and I have the Kodachromes to prove it.
When I came back to campus to defend my dissertation, I slept on Dave’s couch. His door was always open to a friend who needed a place to stay.
One time when I was back to Bloomington, Dave had an assignment from the Louisville Courier Journal to get a picture of Elvis who was staying in the Populars hotel, now an IU office complex. Dave got the picture as Elvis emerged from the hotel. I think the paper paid him $5.00 or so—it wasn’t much. But Dave knew how to maximize his income. The next day he took an 8×10 to the room at the hotel where all the employees took their break and took orders. Practically every employee ordered a print.
Bloomington, Ind. is not a major media market but his photographic coverage of the area and of IU was prolific and the area is better off for it. He photographed IU sport events and IU was one of his major clients. He got the picture of Bob Knight throwing the chair. I know of no other freelancer who documented southern Indiana for a career.
His skill as a photojournalist led him to teach photojournalism in the School of Journalism as an adjunct instructor. The full-time photojournalism faculty at the time were John Ahlhauser and Will Counts. Many students can count Dave as a mentor.
In 1982, I joined the faculty of the IU School of Journalism to direct the School in Indianapolis. I had many business trips to Bloomington and frequently had supper with Dave.
Dave had a photographer’s eye for life. He saw the detail and the beauty of the world that most people miss. Sitting on a rock with a cup of coffee watching the sun set or rise in the Boundary Waters was a salve for his soul. Those of us who knew him have our own unique set of Repp stories. Although Repp the person is gone, the stories live on. Think about them now in his memory.
Carl David Repp, 76, died April 29, 2013 in Chico, CA. An award-winning photojournalist, Repp was a mentor to generations of photojournalism students in the Indiana University School of Journalism at Bloomington.
Repp, a long-time resident of Bloomington, was well-known for his love of wilderness canoeing and of jazz.
“He would rather have died with a paddle in his hand while on a wilderness canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota,” said James W. Brown, a long-time friend of Repp and retired executive associate dean of the IU journalism school on the IUPUI campus. “Instead he left this world from an Alzheimer’s facility in California.”
Repp was born and reared in Huntington, Ind. where he delivered groceries for the family grocery. He earned a bachelor’s degree from DePauw in 1959 and an M.S. in Education from Indiana University-Bloomington in 1966. He was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. While in graduate school, he worked in the Indiana University Photo Lab.
Repp, whose work was published under the name C. David Repp, remained a fiercely independent freelancer throughout his career. He worked frequently for the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times and for Indiana University. One of his most famous pictures was of former IU basketball Coach Bob Knight throwing a chair across the basketball floor.
Repp was an adjunct instructor for many years in the I.U. School of Journalism, working with the late Will Counts, the long-time director of the photojournalism sequence at Indiana and a close friend.
“Dave’s door was always open for coffee and conversation always with the background of classical music or jazz,” Brown said. “Students who got a dose of Dave’s intellect and critical review of their photographs accelerated their learning far beyond what they were learning in the classroom. Those who came back for more soon had a loyal and lifelong friend.”
Brown wrote on his website ( http://bit.ly/10U58tw ) after Repp’s death that “Dave had a photographer’s eye for life. He saw the detail and the beauty of the world that most people miss. Sitting on a rock with a cup of coffee watching the sun set or rise in the Boundary Waters was a salve for his soul.”
Award-winning documentary photographer Melissa Farlow added to those observations, remembering Repp as a “solid, ageless and thoughtful man who always made time for camaraderie. …His intellect was deep yet he found simple ways to explain the world through his images.”
Photojournalist, editor and writer J. Bruce Baumann wrote of a conversation he had with Repp after the move to California. “I asked him how he was doing, and he said, ‘You know, I have Alzheimer’s disease.’ I told him he’d be OK. He thanked me. I told him, no, I’m the one who needs to thank you. He will be forever part of the photojournalism community that passed through Bloomington.”
Repp is survived by a sister, Carolyn Knapton of Chico, CA, and nieces and nephews Janet Skole, Mary Lou Schuler, Doug Weaver, Holly Bowen, and Joel and Matt Arant.
Memorial contributions may be made to the IU Foundation, P.O. Box 500, Bloomington, IN 47402 for the benefit of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music C. David Repp Music Performance Scholarship, or to the Alzheimer’s Association, 2105 Forest Ave. Ste. 130, Chico, CA 95928, or to the National Press Photographers Foundation scholarship fund ( http://nppf.org ).
A celebration of life will be held in Bloomington on June 22nd from 1-5 pm in the President’s Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. A short graveside service will be held at 1:30 pm on June 23rd at Mt. Hope cemetery in Huntington.