Ricardo Thomas was a friend of mine. Ricardo also was a friend to me. At this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival Ricardo was missing. He wasn’t very visible anyway. He was doing his job well when we didn’t notice him. He was one of the guys who gathered in front of the stage or at the edge of an event with a lot of photography gear hanging on him.
Expensive cameras and a press pass separates the press photographers from the rest of us. Ricardo looked the part of a photojournalist. If you did notice Ricardo, you saw that he was handsome, wiry and self assured enough to be up on the stage. He wore the right gear. This summer we lost Ricardo to cancer. He went quietly, the way he lived. No fuss. No attention.
About 20 years ago a familiar looking guy showed up at the door to my studio at the Scarab Club. Ricardo and I shared some wine and talked about our shared passions, art and anything French. We never talked about his work as a photojournalist. Shortly after that, I saw him at the jazz festival going about his business for the Detroit News. I recalled seeing him cover many festivals and events and often wished that I could be as free as he was and involve myself in the things I most cared about. He was one of the reasons I quit my business to paint. Part of Ricardo’s job required him to photograph some things more mundane. He had the ability to find a good story in the ordinary. His kindness to his subjects came through in his photography. We worked on a plan for a “Shooting Back” mentoring program that would unite photojournalists and disadvantaged Detroit kids. I lost touch with Ricardo until our interest in jazz brought us together again at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. We still had a lot of things to talk about. He and his wife Katherine included me at her frequent soirees where many of Detroit’s creatives gathered.
Ricardo was a professional above all else. He covered his assignments, he took notes, he compiled and edited his shots. He was blessed with a good eye and a gentle soul. He has gone gently into the night.
Ricardo sent me this photo of Marion Hayden listening to Johnny O’Neal’s piano solo at the 2010 Detroit Jazz Festival
Ricardo was on President Gerald Ford’s photo team and was in Michigan to say goodby.
Ricardo always respected those he photographed. He exposed the good in everyone.