The Digital Journalist
David Leeson
Panama: A man is rushed to a hospital after being shot in the face by police during a riot in Panama in 1989
"I met Jocelyne once while on a day trip to New York City for a Dallas Morning News assignment. She expressed disappointment that I, a native Texan, wasn't wearing boots and a cowboy hat. Even more when she learned I had never owned boots or hat. "What kind of Texan is that?" I nervously chuckled and said I would buy a pair of boots but couldn't promise the hat. I look like an idiot in a cowboy hat.

To me she was an untouchable figure of power in the world of photojournalism and I listened to her. She was a major reason I remained in newspapers, rightly advising me that my work would get better play and I would have more opportunities at The Dallas Morning News than becoming a magazine freelancer. Jocelyne was the first and only outsider of my newspaper world who expressed interest in my career and photos. The magazine world had passed me by so many times I had long since cared if or when they called. I was invisible to them. Jocelyne gave me a brief moment to shine before them and be seen. Though it was enough for me to be seen by JB.

We had ten years together before JB Pictures closed. She was loyal to me and I was intensely loyal in return. The Dallas Morning News, signing a contract with a different agency, had a "JB clause" allowing me to work with her exclusively. That chapter of my life ended along with the agency. I missed the frequent phone calls between us. I missed being a part of a great agency. Brag about your affiliation today - but there was only one JB Pictures. I wondered if I would ever find another home. Ten years later, at the latter stages of a great career, I still do not have a serious agency affiliation. I suppose there was no replacing JB.

Those were the days of the "special project" newspaper photographer, six-column photos and 24-page ad-free special sections. It was an era of film and Nikon F2 cameras, of shooting with heart and soul as though we had no heart and soul except that found beneath the emulsion. It was the Jocelyn chapter of my career, a "secret" source of inspiration that propelled me as gleefully as a child on a park swing. It was an age when agency meant meaningful relationships. Money was just an added benefit.

Jocelyne and I continued to talk on the phone over the years - though not nearly as frequent as it should have been. We always made plans to get together. I had a pair of boots to show off. But, it never happened. Two weeks before she died, she was on my mind for days. "Call her," I said to myself. But I was, sadly, too busy. Our phone conversations always began with her asking, "How is my favorite photographer?" "Awww, you say that to all the guys." But it didn't matter; when the connection closed, the receiver resting in the cradle, I felt like I had won an award. She was always encouraging. She always believed in me. Who else could I make such claims of? Perhaps my mother? I should call her today.

Another chapter has closed. Jocelyne has departed. I hate regrets. I hate goodbyes. Thus, I choose to have none. She was dear to my heart. I am blessed that our last conversation like many others before, ended with the words, "I love you." She is missed.

Maybe I'll buy that hat after all."