In 1965 Bruce Kellman, then a UPS junior, signed on with the TacomaNews Tribune as a part-time photographer. When he graduated, the paper asked if he’d consider working full time. The pay was decent and, having no other prospects, Bruce said OK. It was the only job he ever had.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then Bruce Kellman ’67 is responsible for passing along incalculable eloquence. When he retired from the Tacoma News Tribune this past spring, he had 42 years of daily newspaper work in his portfolio. Forty-two years of watching and waiting; a lot of waiting, punctuated by seconds of artistic frenzy. Forty-two years of showing us people at their inspiring best and heartbreaking worst. Forty-two years of miracles and horror and humor and grief and jaw-dropping beauty.
He was born in Northern Illinois farm country and bought his first camera at age 9 using lawn-mowing proceeds. His first darkroom was in the old coal bin in the basement of his house.
When his family moved to Washington’s Yakima Valley, Bruce says it was a lucky break that Selah High School had a darkroom and 4-by-5 Crown Graphic camera that nobody else knew how to use. “By my sophomore year I was working part time at the Kennel-Ellis studio in Yakima,” he says. “I was assigned to photograph a wedding that year, but, since I was only 15, Kennel-Ellis owner Dorothy Palmer had to drive me to the church.”
The pictures came out fine. Later Palmer would take Bruce to a conference of magazine photographers near Carmel, Calif., where he met the likes of Edward Steichen, Phillipe Halsman, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams.
Selah High had a good basketball program back then, and an annual highlight was the town’s pilgrimage to the Class A state championships at the UPS fieldhouse. The campus impressed him and his girlfriend (and now wife of 40 years) Joyce Loudon ’67.
“But I was thinking of enrolling at a photography school,” says Bruce, “so my father wrote Phillipe Halsman for advice. Halsman advised him to point me toward a liberal arts education.”
Instead of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Bruce’s goal became attending UPS. At his interview with admission director Larry Stenberg, Bruce placed a large case on his desk and opened it to reveal his set of Hasselblad cameras and lenses. He was, he told Stenberg, prepared to work his way through school as a photographer.
Two years would pass before Bruce enrolled as a transfer student, after studies at Yakima Valley College. He quickly landed an assistant editor job with Tamanawas, which covered half of his tuition. Also during those first weeks on campus, sportswriter Stan Farber ’63, who covered UPS athletics for The News Tribune, told then sports information director (and later longtime athletics director) Doug McArthur ’53 about a job opening at the paper. Doug put Stan in touch with Bruce.
“I still remember getting the phone call from Stan,” Bruce says. “I actually had not yet even heard of The News Tribune, but Stan convinced me to drop by the office. I was hired that very day: Oct. 2, 1965.”