Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Last Exposure - Celebrating the life of Marc Akemann

 This is probably the hardest post for me to write. On Tuesday (07/03/2018), I lost my best friend, Marcelino (Marc) Akemann (born 10/27/1956).  Marc had been battling non-small-cell lung cancer for over a year, and the latest treatments had him feeling quite positive and feeling good.  He drove over to the house for a visit on Saturday, and we laughed and had a good time. He also got see to my daughter Jorie, who was down for a few days from Marquette.  I took a photo of the two of them in front of Hound, the Jeep Cherokee that Marc bought from her a few years ago.  I gave him a big hug, and he drove home.  On Monday afternoon, he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, and died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in the ER surrounded by family (and Adrienne and I, who arrived just moments earlier).  It was a surreal scene for me, to see a man that had just a few days ago, been talking about the future, lying still, and never again being part of this world.

Marc and I met for the first time in late 2007, when he showed up at my house for a Crappy Camera Club Meeting. We had actually talked earlier that year when he visited the A3C3 "Cheap Shots" exhibit in Nickles Arcade, and of course, in true Marc fashion, he remembered our conversation, while I did not.  Someone had told him that he should meet me, as we had some things in common.  I know that we quickly became friends, and by 2008, we both went to our first Photostock and traveled around together.  In the ensuing decade, we became the Marc (with a C) and Mark (with a K) show, and made many photo trips together all over Michigan.   In Facebook posts while we were travelling in 2013, it seemed that we were eating our way across the Upper Peninsula. In fact, restaurants were the only place we had good wi-fi!
At the Two-Hearted River in 2013

Marc was the most honest and conscientious person I have known.  He was a gentle soul that made sure those who needed help were okay, and always had time to help out if you needed him.  He was a master of constructive criticism, and rarely had bad things to say about anyone.  Both of us had common ground in many things, and we both abhorred hypocrisy. Marc served in the Air Force during the post-Vietnam era, mostly in Germany.  He was a "fuelie" - working with AV fuel and other ground support.  In hindsight, I have to wonder if that was the cause of his cancer. He never smoked. In the Air Force, he was able to travel a lot in Europe, and that gave him a better insight than most US citizens about other countries.  His father (Dutch) and mother (Indonesian) emigrated with Marc from the Hague to the US in the late 1950s.  His younger brothers Max, Victor, and Dimitry, and sister Nicole were born in Wisconsin.  His dad worked in the auto-industry, and Marc had tales about when his dad worked for American Motors, and they had some of those amazing cars that came out in the 1970s.

Marc and I used to meet up for coffee in Dexter, where we might have first dropped off some film at Huron Camera, had a leisurely chat at Joe and Rosie's coffee shop next door, and then went back to Huron Camera to get our processed film.  In its heyday, Huron Camera was an amazing place that had just about everything, and there were always the "treasure bins" at the back where we found the occasional bargain.   It closed in 2014, and our subsequent Dexter meetups were less frequent.
At Roos Roast, Ann Arbor, April 2017.

We had so much fun traveling around together. We both had the same sense of humor, and I recall a couple of times that we saw things and had to double back and take a photo.  Marc used to have a rusting Jeep Wrangler that he drove everywhere.  It of course had a short turn radius, and he was never hesitant about making a quick U-turn to get back to the scene.  Somewhere in the thumb region of Michigan we saw a hilarious sign and we knew that if we didn't shoot, we would never get over a missed opportunity.  I included the photo in an exhibit I had at the Common Cup in Ann Arbor, and I was asked to remove it from the show.  It's here for your enjoyment, though.

Travelling across the back roads of the Upper Peninsula we saw a strip club.  In the middle of nowhere (to us, at least). It seemed so out of place in the UP.

Later that day, we made it to the Delta Peninsula and spent several hours at  the ghost town of Fayette, now a state historical park.  Marc and I had different approaches to our photography.  He was very deliberate, and he often used a Mamiya RB-67 and a damned heavy Gitzo tripod.  Me, I was scampering around with my much lighter Bogen tripod and usually a 35mm Nikon.  We both had a preference for Nikon cameras, and he always had a very nice black Nikon FA that he used regularly. So much so, that I regretted selling mine years earlier.  His other daily shooter was a Nikon F100 with a 50mm 1.4 (which his brother Vic had found at a garage sale for $25), and he almost always had his compact Olympus XA with him.   Of course, Marc was no stranger to GAS, and we often brought our latest acquisitions to a coffee meet-up.  He was especially fond of his nice Contaflex system, and shot with it regularly.   He had acquired some interesting gear over the years, and always took great care of it.  He had planned on getting his darkroom set up at his new place in Whitmore Lake, and then he fell ill with the cancer.

One November about 6 years ago, Marc and I were on a little photo trip to the Adrian, MI area.  At some point we saw something odd in the road, so we stopped. It turned out to be an expensive shotgun in a case.  We loaded our find into my Escape, and went searching for the proper authorities to turn it in.  As it was Veteran's Day, we had a hard time locating the police, and since it was not an emergency, we had to go find the station.  It wasn't in their jurisdiction, so the Sheriff Dept. had to deal with it. When we finally found the right place, we turned in the shotgun, and Marc filled out a form.  Two days later he got a call from the owner.  Turns out the guy had taken out the case to load something else into his truck for a hunting trip, and put the gun  on top of the cap.  He drove off, not realizing that it had dropped to the ground about 500 feet from his house.  He was so grateful that he sent Marc $50, which bought the two of us lunch at Seva.  That was so typical of many of our trips -- we also ended up with a story.
12/31/2012, on our River Raisin drive

Marc was a regular exhibitor at our Crappy Camera Club shows, and a regular attendee at meetings.  Even if he didn't have photos to show, he was always there to help put up a show or take it down.  For him, it was a way to connect with other film shooters in a group that was not about egos or agendas.  I will say it again that Marc was a dedicated film shooter, even in his professional mode as a photographer.  Only recently did he use digital cameras, and then only for very specific jobs.  He had come to really love flying his DJI Phantom drone, and this past May, he took it out when we went on our last photo/lunch/thriftshop day trip.  We went out May 5, which was one of those bright sunny days with no clouds.  We visited a bunch of places, and finally in the afternoon, visited a thrift shop in Chelsea, where he bought a LOMO LC-A camera for less than $5!
Drone Pilot, May 2018

Marc's drone at Pickerel Lake

Marc, atypical pose. May 5, 2018.

We both looked forward to attending Photostock, which is a yearly event held in late June by Bill Schwab, near Harbor Springs, MI.  We didn't always attend, but we made many of them over the past decade.  It's a great gathering of photographers - mostly film and alt-process users, but nobody is a stranger to digital, either.  People leave their egos at the door, and we talk a lot, show our work, and do some photography.  Oh, yes, and we party at night, too. We both met some fantastic people at Photostock.

Marc at Photostock 2008

Marc and I traveled together a lot at Photostock.  I think 2013 was my favorite year, because we also did a UP photo trip afterwards.  We saw a lot together, and always came away with some good images and memories.  
At a later Photostock 
Another trip to the UP was in late October 2012.  We drove Jorie's Jeep up to Marquette after I had some work done on it in Arbor. We switched out with my Ford Escape, and then drove it to some spots in Alger County that were definitely worth the trip.  Marc used to tell me that I drove like an old man. That's because I didn't have his lead foot on the gas. We did some great photography on that trip and saw the places mosquito-free, especially at Mosquito Falls.
Marc and his Contaflex, Deerton, MI

At Mosquito Falls area

At Tannery Falls, near Munising.

We definitely loaded up the SUV with our respective camera gear. However, Marc's Gitzo tripod and RB-67 bag ALWAYS took up the most space.  He had a separate bag for his Nikon gear and his Contaflex outfit.  I don't know that I saw many of those images from the Contaflex.  We went on a trip to the Ghost Forest at Sleeping Bear Dunes one year, and he carried that monster tripod and backpack across the sand and up the hills.  He was always in better physical shape than me.  We always had fun, though, and I don't think he and I ever had a cross word with one another in all those years.

It's not every day that you meet a person that you immediately like. Marc was one of those people. He had a way of making one at ease, and could start a conversation with anyone.  In his various jobs, I will bet that his demeanor and honesty was a great asset to him.  He had been a freelance photographer for some time, and one of his biggest accounts was doing photography at Domino's Farms, and was still intending to finish up some work. 

He was what I call a once-in-a lifetime best friend.  I wish we had both been able to live out to a decent old age, and I will miss his graciousness, his sense of humor, and wry smile.   I know that he made me a better photographer and a more outgoing person.   
November, 2017

street shooting in Holly, MI, 2011

At Photostock 2008

2008 Crappy camera meeting


Marc will be missed by so many people. I know his wife Coleen and daughter Camille will miss him most of all. He was a proud father, good husband, and wonderful brother to his siblings.  I know that he made me a better person, and I will always be thinking of him when I venture out on a photo trip. Marc, you may not be with us now, but your spirit lives on in how you touched our lives, and so our lives must go on. I'll be thinking of you when I see the night sky and the water over the falls. Rest in peace, my friend.

08/06/2018 --PLEASE NOTE: A Celebration of Life event will be held on Sunday, August 26, at 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., at Domino's Farms Office Park, EBA Café, Lobby H, Level 1, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48105. There will be an Open House at 11:00 a.m., a Remembrance Service starting at 11:30 a.m., with a luncheon to follow, and plenty of desserts.

Memorial donations in memory of Marc may be made to the Huron River Watershed Council.


Rick Scheibner said...

Life is a precious thing and your words here reflect the impact that he and his family made in your life. If art brings us together, I believe that photography has the power to bind kinships in a way that no other can. I hope you're able to find some solace in the memories that you made together.

D.L. Wood said...

Thank you for sharing your friendship with such a wonderful tribute.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful post for an amazing man. I loved hearing about all the great times together and how photography brought so many great adventures for you two. I was lucky enough to experience a shoot together at Pickerel Lake last fall shooting star trails and talking for 5 hours about everything. He was one of a kind and I am sorry you lost such a dear friend and and Coleen lost a priceless Husband and Camille her unforgettable Father. RIP Marc!

Ian Mendel

Mike Castles said...

A beautiful tribute Mark, he was indeed one of kind - the best kind.

Jim Grey said...

I'm deeply sorry for the loss of your friend. Such good friends are a rarity in life. I wish you well as you process this loss.

AdrianW said...

Great memories and beautiful write-up Mark! I'm another on the list of many great friends that are already missing Marc.

John said...

A beautiful tribute. Thanks for posting this.

Unknown said...

I was an acquaintance of Marc's. We became friends about 5 years ago through a mutual friend in music, George Heritier. Thank you for sharing your memories in this beautiful tribute. Marc's passing hit me hard when it came. I shared his optimism that his cancer would be beaten. I learned a bit about kindness from Marc that I will never forget.

- Mark Jewett

Unknown said...

Hello Mark,

Thank you for your wonderful tribute to my brother. Your words clearly describe the spirit and person that was/is Marc. "...a once in a lifetime best friend!" is an awesome sentiment and dives to the depth of one's core. I hope to meet you at Marc's Celebration of Life.

Vic Akemann

Fotogypsies said...

I did not know Marc very well. Met him at AA Camera club. Always admired his photography. He bought a photo of mine, “ Morning Fog” shot in Newfoundland. I was so honored that he bought my photo since he was such a talented photographer. I loved his outdoor photos on the Watershed Calendar. Thank you, Mark, for sharing these stories about Marc! What a great loss for everyone.
Angie George

Donna K said...

I'm sorry for your loss- This is a wonderful tribute to your close friend. Many of us are thinking of all of you -his close friends and family. I work with Camille- and loved that this post gave me a bit of insight into her dad. Oh.. and I was crushed with the Dexter camera shop closed myself- they actually also help with some microscope lens issues I had-

Anonymous said...

wow! My husband Mark and I just now found out when we got the Watershed calendar the other day.

I knew Marc briefly waaay back around the Millennium and part of the A2CC. Even though he had been shooting his beautiful images on Portra 400 for quite a while, this was a time when we were all getting our feet wet with new gear and different films and all the excitement of Photography in general. I always had a respect for him and his work and appreciated the fact that he respected what I did which at that time was different from what he was doing then - bw film. My husband always liked that he wasn't an ego talking down to me as a woman photographer - he was always polite and nice.

We got together a few times for critique sessions and he always had something generous to say about the latest project I was working on. I enjoyed reading your tribute and catching up with what he had been doing and glad to hear how he embraced bw film and even planning a darkroom. Enjoyed hearing about the trips - which seem to be so him... Mark (my husband) and I ran into him a while back and of course had his latest cool camera purchase and took a nice photo of us. He even sent it, which we appreciated a lot.

Here is a funny...I remember way back when I needed to make a big camera purchase and of course Marc and Adrian did a lot of e-bay research on my behalf. Marc came up with a Minolta x-700 which was a nice fit but I ended up with a Nikon FA set up that I found on my hear he had one that he used often was fun to read.

About that photo at Common is a Church after all, but can see him trying to quietly squeak it in without notice, very him. :)

thank you for your write up, I can see how he is missed by his close friends and others who knew him more.
Carine ~

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected, thought it was Marc who put up the image at Common Cup. Although I thought it would be him if he did it quietly like his wry, quiet personality. :)
Carine ~

mfophotos said...

Thanks for your comments and remembrances about Marc. I know that he make an impact on anyone that knew him. I think about him and appreciate that we both shared many good times together. That will never leave me.