David J. Bay, a colleague at the University of Michigan passed away on Feb. 21 after a lengthy illness. I had known David for nearly my entire career at UM (28 years), and he'd been working for the University for over 34 years. I always envied Dave's position -- after all, not all that many photographers end up with a full-time job with benefits. Dave was a laid-back person that really knew his craft, and I enjoyed his wry sense of humor. I can't say that we were close friends -- in fact, most of his personal life was a mystery to me. I used to see him at the bar at Ashley's pub every now and then, and he often drove around in a black Harley with a side-car, and looked every bit the part of someone that enjoyed being himself. Dave was an excellent photographer, and whether he was shooting a staff portrait, some butterflies in a tray, or making slides for talks, his work was always well-done. I doubt that many faculty realized the "I need it by tomorrow" approach to getting slides done for a talk that should have been done weeks before was a sure way make Dave lose his hair.
I used to talk to him whenever I was in his building, and whenever we ran into each other somewhere, we would discuss photography. He loved Nikons and we shared a common interest in the craft of being a good photographer. I know he liked sharing his expertise, and I imagine there are scores of graduate students that learned a thing or two from Dave. With anyone so well-versed in photography, he made the difficult appear simple, his techniques refined from years of experience. The digital tide came his way, and he adapted, though I suspect somewhat grudgingly. Because as we all know, anyone with a digital camera instantly thinks they are now an expert on photography. I'm sure Dave had some interesting exchanges with such people.
Throughout our lives there are people that we wished we'd had one more conversation with, one more beer with, or one more chance to find out more from that person. David Bay was one of those people, and we are poorer with his passing.
A gathering of family and friends will be held at Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Road, Saturday, February 28, from 1 – 4 p.m.