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Herral Long; 1929-2014: Photographer known for his art

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    Toledo Blade photographer Herral Long. Blade photo

    Blade photo

  • herral-jpg

    Photograph of Herral Long at work for The Blade in 1983.

  • MLK-Jr-Toledo1967

    Herral Long snapped this photo of civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967.

    The Blade
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    Herral Long documented when then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited Toledo in September, 1963, two months before President John F. Kennedy’s death.

    The Blade
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Herral Long, an award-winning photojournalist who captured news events with artistry during a Blade career that spanned the second half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, died Saturday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Townshp. He was 84.

He had congestive heart failure, his brother Doug said.

Mr. Long was a resident of the Lakes of Monclova Health Campus in Monclova Township the last 1½ years. For decades, he lived in an 1890s-vintage Queen Anne-style home in the Old West End — which he once photographed from a cherry picker for a Toledo Magazine cover.

“There was only one Herral Long. He was individual,” said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade. “His career followed the course of Toledo for nearly 60 years. He saw it all.

“When you think of Herral, you think of creativity and artistry and a guy who lived in the Old West End and fit right in,” Mr. Block said. “There’s nobody like him today.”

Mr. Long was responsible for many of the Toledo Magazine cover shots in the mid-1980s and assiduously set up each, recalled Mr. Block, who was Sunday editor at the time.

His expertly composed pictures of cakes and casseroles, glistening berries, and succulent vegetables regularly graced The Blade’‍s food pages.

“A lot of people snap a picture. He would create a picture,” said Luke Black, a retired Blade chief photographer.

Mr. Long took photos from the top of the Anthony Wayne Bridge and the back of a police wagon, where he was detained after taking photos at a traffic fatality. He photographed presidents and their spouses and the cream of Toledo society and everyday people at work and play.

“Herral theorized he photographed half the people in Toledo one way or another,” said Bruce Dale, a Blade photographer in the late 1950s and early 1960s who had a long career at National Geographic.

“Everybody knows Herral. He was a legend,” Mr. Dale said. “Even if they haven’‍t met him, they know Herral.”

Mr. Long retired, albeit reluctantly, in December, 2008. In a letter to the company, he asked that his resignation take effect on what had been designated as the last day for a photographer who was to be laid off. He was hired by The Blade in 1949 and was classified a photographer in 1950. For several months in 1964, he had a job with General Motors’ photographic division but returned to Toledo.

The Ohio News Photographers Association named him its first Still Photographer of the Year in 1967. He twice received its highest honor, the Carson Memorial Award, and regularly received awards in photo contests. A photo of his was part of a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition that toured the United States and Canada.

He remained enthusiastic about his work at The Blade and photography, from his first Speed Graphic camera — one lens, one flashbulb, one sheet of film each assignment — to the latest digital wonder.

“I’ve been very fortunate in being able to work here,” Mr. Long said in a video shot by his Blade colleague Andy Morrison to coincide with his retirement.

“I think I read somewhere — it’s not original with me — but I was told if you find a job you really love, you won’t have to work the rest of your life,” Mr. Long said.

And then, with emotion evident in his face and voice: “I’ve been very fortunate in being able to do that and be able to do things I really love, so it’s not really work.”

He collaborated with Sally Vallongo, a Blade retiree who still writes for the newspaper, on a volume, The Long View: 50 Years as a Photojournalist, a mix of biography and a mini-exhibition of highlights from a photographic career.

“Herral brought a true artist’‍s eye to the work of photojournalism,” Ms. Vallongo said Saturday. “He seemed to approach something with a certain mix of what I would call childlike innocence and great visual sophistication.”

Mr. Long in childhood earned his first camera, a Brownie, by selling magazine subscriptions.

“I’ve been, since early on, just mystified by the ability to just press a button and capture reality,” he told The Blade for a 2009 Toledo Magazine page featuring some of his favorite work.

He was born Nov. 25, 1929, in Toledo to Edith and Ben Long, the oldest of six. His parents sent him to art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art and music classes. His father saw no practical future in photography. Still, young Herral made friends at the neighborhood camera store and borrowed photography books from the library and experimented with developing chemicals. His first award came for a photo of a fellow Libbey High School chemistry student surrounded by laboratory equipment.

Mr. Long graduated from Libbey in 1948 and through a factory job earned enough to buy the 4x5 format camera used by news photographers. He got to know Blade photographer Carl Gifford, and that was his entry to the photo studio, where he became a regular visitor, observer, and helper. He’d ask about job openings, and in April, 1949, he was hired to operate a wire service photo machine.

His young career as a newspaper photographer was interrupted by Army service during the Korean War with the 66th Engineer Topographic Company, which made maps. He was stationed in Germany but visited Switzerland and the Netherlands. He included photos with correspondence home — rows of wooden shoes; an aerial view of the countryside. One photo of a stark Van Gogh-like winter landscape near Stuttgart won him $5 in a service club contest.

An early 1952 letter to his Blade and Toledo Times colleagues measured 40 feet long and 22½ inches wide — a 10,000-word reply to the 30-foot-long letter the staff mailed him for Christmas, 1951. Mr. Long wrote a message to everyone who signed the letter to him.

Mr. Long eagerly adapted as the large-format Speed Graphic gave way to smaller cameras with 35mm film and changeable lenses. He prized the versatility and brought along a variety of lenses — and lights and ladders — even to routine assignments.

“He was prepared for anything,” said Dave Zapotosky, Blade chief photographer.

Mr. Long pursued the news through threats of arrest, even actual detention by authorities, and despite violence. He once stopped his car when he saw several boys fighting in the street. Unable to drive around them, he got out and took photos — and got punched in the nose. A nearby hospital treated his bloody nose, and he delivered the pictures to the city desk.

“He never backed off,” Mr. Black said. “If he saw it, whether he was on the clock or off the clock, he took that picture and had it ready for the next edition of the newspaper. That was the kind of enthusiasm he had.”

Mr. Long married Marcella Studer, an educator and a former Religious Sister of Mercy, in a sunrise ceremony at the Marblehead Lighthouse on Oct. 30, 1971. In the early 1980s, medical professionals said she likely had Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr. Long cared for her at home as long as he could. After a succession of Toledo area nursing homes turned her out, Mr. Long placed her in a Stow, Ohio, facility — close to her siblings, but 140 miles from Toledo. Mr. Long visited at least twice a month, and during the two-plus-hour drive, songs came to him.

She did not seem to recognize him as he fed her ice cream and serenaded her, strumming an autoharp held to his shoulder.

“I’m told the sense of hearing is the last to go,” Mr. Long told The Blade. “Sometimes I thought she enjoyed them a little. I’‍ll never know.”

He performed the songs publicly in the early 1990s. His wife died on April 11, 1995, and afterward he recorded an album of the songs, “Memories of Love: Songs for Marcy,” all in the interest of raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. Local musicians contributed their talent.

Through the years, he often opened his home to the Any Wednesday musical group and was a charter member of Toledo Friends of Photography.

Mr. Long received a bachelor of arts degree in speech from the University of Toledo. He was inducted into the Libbey High Hall of Fame in 2003.

He had been a member of the Church of Scientology.

Surviving are his brothers Douglas and Ben Long and sisters Barbara Soliday and Lorna Leonard.

His family has scheduled a celebration of life service at 1 p.m. Aug. 9 in the Main Library downtown.

The family suggests tributes to the Alzheimer’‍s Association, Northwest Ohio chapter; the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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