Integrity, Character and Grace………

3 years, 3 months ago 18
Posted in: Uncategorized


Joe Portrait small


I just had the pleasure of hanging out with Joe McNally for a couple of days at my home in Corbin, (yes, I’m bragging!).  Well, we weren’t at my home much, we were doing coal miners portraits in Bell Couinty, Kentucky.  O.K. “we” weren’t doing portraits, Joe was, I just made the contacts and helped him with his gear, and that is o.k. because it gave me something, very precious to me, time with Joe.  Let’s get one thing out of the way, Joe McNally is probably the world’s finest magazine photojournalists, a master of lighting, but what means the most to me, a man of genuine integrity, chracter and filled with grace.


I’ve said many times, there is no such thing as a famous photographer.  Elvis was famous, Bob Hope was famous!   Photographers, at best, are just known or respected by their peers, Joe McNally is both known and  highly respected by his peers!   Very few of us are ever stopped in an airport and asked are you, “fill in the blank”, and if we are, it is 99% of the time someone that has taken a class with us, watched a video class, or bought one of our books.  So let’s get this clarified, among our peers,  Joe is famous, very famous.  Settled, moving on.


What is much more important to those of us that are fortuante enough to call him a freind, is the man, Joe McNally.  Who is that Joe McNally?  He is a truly caring individual that quickly and eagerly becomes a part of the lives of his subjects.   Joe has countless friends from the 911 Project because he not only photographed them at a critical time in their lives, he became a part of their family, he went through the experience with them, suffered their loss and really cared about those people.  They are still close friends and he keeps in touch with them too!  I could go on, but trust me when I tell you 54 coal miners in Eastern Kentucky made a new friend over the last two days.  Around the world there are famous people, leaders, athletes, and common working men and women that Joe has touched with his genuine, caring concern and admiration for them.


If you spend time with Joe you see that he really does care, he really does try to look into the real lives of his subjects, he respects them (that is why I can’t share anything he shot here) at least not now.  He gave his word to the miners that they would see the images first, and that was the right thing to do, and he always keeps his word, so I will too.  Trust me the few I’ve see on the computer screen truly capture something far deeper than just a portrait!  Why?  Well, because he is Joe McNally.   I could have used his lights, set up by him and made images and I know they would not be anything like his.  He connects at a deeper level, and it results in truly wonderful images that capture the real subjects.  People that he interact with trust him, because they sense that they know they can.  I wear a wrist band that says “Becasue I said I would”  it remind me to keep my word.  Joe, doesn’t need one, that’s who he is.




Joe and mallory small



I’m very careful who I invite into my world, the world of these miners and the mountains that I love so deeply.  Many have abused the opportunity and made me regret sharing this place with them.  Joe did the opposite, he respected these men, he showed his genuine concern for their lives, their families the trials and tribulations of working miles under a mountain  in coal you can barely stand up in.  He left us with a deep respect for these people, my people.  He also captured their spirit, their grit and determination in his images, and I can’t wait to take the  resulting prints back down to the mine and share them with them.  They all will get prints of themselves, it’s a Joe McNally thing, starting to get it? 



Joe inthe crt small



Thanks Joe, for being who you are,  not the famous photographer, not the globe trotting super star, not the guy that has rubbed shoulders with people few could ever imagine meeting, but for being a decent, humble man, a great husband to Anne, a true treasure to those of us who are honored call you a friend,  and yes, for being a man of Integrity, Character and filled with God’s Grace.


 It was a good two days!





the pilgrim



  •  A very special thanks to Sandy and Leo Miller, Dave McCarthy and the great people of Rock Hampton Energy, especially Rex Fought and Johnny Evans, for making us feel so welcome and working so hard to make Joe’s shoot possible!  A very special thanks goes out to the 52 incredible miners that let us into their lives for a few hours, a few hours, that we will always remember!


SPECIAL UPDATE ON WES:   Wes started his second round of Chemo today and the blood work came back very positive, his Doctor was elated at how his blood had recovered this time, please keep praying, and thank you so much!!!




18 Responses

  1. Gary says:

    I first met Joe many years ago at a Moose Peterson workshop. I had no idea who he was until the opening night presentations and recognized some of his photos. It was very humbling to see some of the horrendous events he has covered over his carrier. One picture I remember was a table of human sculls. And his work with the first responders at 9/11 ripped my heart out. And to this day the best compliment I have ever received was when my picture of a spider in a lobster pot was shown at the workshop participant presentation Joe was in the back of the room and said “cool shot”..

    • admin says:

      Sorry for the delay just got into Texas! That is agreed moment, lots of folks would die for a good critique from Joe!!!!

  2. Jim in Bloomington says:

    Privileged to spend a bit of private time with Joe. He is everything Bill has described. And the same goes for another man with the same attributes, Bill Fortney. These two are giants of the photo world, which in actuality is pretty small. They stand equally as tall in the world-at-large around us.

  3. Cecil Scott says:

    Bill,I am very glad Wes is doing good.As Christians God can Work His Good Works From The Inside .Not Trying to Do It From The Outside AS With Some.I will continue to Pray For Wes And Ongoing Improvement And Healing .God Bless.

  4. David W. says:

    It is wonderful to see that Wes is doing well with the treatments. We’ll keep him in out prayers.

    Life in coal country is hard. It has changes forever in a generation. I’m glad that you and Joe are able to honor the miners with the shoot. Somehow, I think these project is also telling about the outstanding character of two gentlemen that were out shooting.

  5. Rodney Mcknight says:

    Jim is right…two of the world’s most special men and photographers….I still remain blown away by Joe’s 9/11 project and can’t wait to see how he has honored the awesome coal miners of Kentucky…
    Thanks for bringing Joe in to honor your brothers!

    So glad Wes is doing well!!!


  6. Carl says:

    We continue to pray for Wes – may healing flow from Jesus to him! But we also continue to pray for Bill, Joe, and other friends that show no visible signs of disease but who need our prayers just as much! Keep it going Bill!!!

  7. Richard Browne says:

    Joe is an amazing photographer – but, as you note, also an amazing person. I was blessed to be able to spend time at your Nashville workshop last year with you and Joe. It’s good to hear that Wes is doing well; our prayers for him will continue. If I can inject a personal request: please send a few prayers out for my older brother, Gordon, who collapsed yesterday and who is facing some medical issues. Thank you (and see you next week in Townsend).

  8. admin says:

    You have them!!!!! and to all you other readers, please add Gordon to your prayer list!!!

  9. Bill. Not to sound over dramatic but I can tell you one of the highlights of my life was spending 4 days with you and Joe in Nashville. I barged in on your planning discussion with him and introduced myself because I am such a fan. Later that evening when he joined the group he came over to me, called me by my first name and said hi. That’s class.

    Watching him with the group he was tireless in his desire to teach, help, and nurture us in our pursuit of our passion. He was never too busy to answer a question. I asked him if I could have a picture made of him and me and without blinking an eye he put his arm around me and said sure.

    He may not be world famous but I traveled 800 miles just to be in his presence. There are very few “famous people” I would do that for. I will never forget the summer in Nashville and I want to thank you for making it happen.

    All the best and prayers for your family.

  10. I suspect you received the notice but if you didn’t Jim Morton passed away over the weekend. Massive heart attack. My age.

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