EDITOR’S NOTE: Maddie Dickerson Moore was photographed many times by local photojournalist Damian Mulinix, who died Saturday after suffering a stroke on March 18 at age 42. Maddie was mentored by Damian during her post-college internship at the Chinook Observer. We join with her in mourning the premature loss of a brilliant and caring young man.
I read a post from the Chinook Observer that said Damian “recorded a generation of life on the Long Beach Peninsula.” That was my generation. I would bet there are few if any of my classmates who could say they were never caught on film by Damian.
From middle school and beyond he was there. At every band concert, every school play, every big game, he was there. He loved jazz and thus he could be seen at most Ilwaco High School jazz band concerts. But he never could have guessed that the piano player and the trumpet player he captured over and over again at countless concerts, parades, and pep band rallies would one day grow up, get married, become his peers, and become his friends.
In 2011 when I graduated from college, I landed back at home with my first big journalism internship, and my first-ever photo boss, Damian. The first few weeks were … rough. I knew him, he knew me, but this was new territory. On my second day, he walked by, gingerly held up my camera strap that was dangling from the corner of my desk and said, “if I was a meaner person, I would have ‘accidentally’ caught myself on this strap and your camera would have come crashing to the ground. Lesson number one: NEVER leave your camera strap hanging off a table.”
D-man, as I called him, documented much of my life thus far. He photographed my toothy, adolescent smile in front of a Neptune Theater movie screen, with an image of an “Abby Normal” brain from “Young Frankenstein” to help publicize my senior project; I think this is where I started to embed myself in a small corner of his heart. He photographed me behind a case full of pastries at my inaugural Ilwaco market day, when I opened my bakery. He photographed my husband, Jacob, beautifully welding steel, and helped launch the start of his small metalworking business. He photographed me and Jacob as we walked back up the aisle after saying “I do.” And he photographed my daughter, just weeks old, lying sleepily on Jacob’s chest.
Jacob and I were lucky enough to get to see Damian a few days before he passed from complications from a stroke. But I will not remember him in that hospital bed. I will remember the shimmer in his eyes as we flipped through image after image that I’d taken on assignment that made me knew that I’d “nailed it.” I will remember how he called me “cowgirl” and “sis.” I will remember the blank stare that clearly said I did NOT “nail it” as the pit in my stomach would form.
I will remember the Ilwaco High School football match where it rained the entire game as we stood on the sidelines, and then sitting back in the newsroom together as the night wore on, while he edited images and I wrote copy. I will remember the giant grin that would form when I would play Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor,” something he asked for whenever I was cornered with a piano. I will remember the tears he held back, and his choked voice, when I saw him in the newsroom after photographing the near drowning of a young boy, the image of which would become one of the biggest of his career. And I will remember how he made me a better photographer — one tough, but true, critic after another.
Damian’s photographs of me and my family will forever hang on my walls. I will play the records he left on my porch in a Sid’s bag until they’re worn through. Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor” will forever be his song. And I will never, ever leave my camera strap dangling from the corner of a table.