Emeigh brings focus to long career with new book

DOVER — Bits and pieces of Delaware’s photojournalism history have been hidden deep inside the attic of Gary Emeigh’s house for the past 50 years or so.

Mr. Emeigh, long-time photographer for both the Delaware State News and The News Journal, has been a staple of chronicling daily life in the First State for more than half a century, whether it be civil unrest in Wilmington in the 1960s, first responders at fire and crime scenes, extreme weather touching the area, a host of amateur and professional sports events, or just a sweaty day at the Delaware State Fair in July, he has seemingly always been there with cameras in hand.

Three years ago, Mr. Emeigh suffered a stroke and it became motivation to get the book done.

Mr. Emeigh’s wife, Dee, finally convinced her somewhat stubborn husband that it was time to put those thousands of photos together like a tapestry of scenes that he has witnessed through the lens of a camera over those many years.

“Dee kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to do something with these photos,’ and I kept thinking, ‘Yeah, that’d be nice,’ but I knew it was going to be a lot of work,’” Mr. Emeigh said, “and then I would tell stories during family dinners about things that happened during my career and everybody kept saying, ‘You’ve got to write this down because if you don’t, no one will notice.’

“When I had that stroke (in 2016) I thought, ‘Now’s the time to get it done before something else happens.’ I was fortunate that I didn’t come out (of the stroke) with any long-lasting damage.”

The result is a 432-page journey of memorable images — both color and black-and-white — titled “The Ink in My Blood,” the title being a tribute to then-Delaware State News Managing Editor Joe Smyth.

When Mr. Emeigh approached Mr. Smyth about quitting his job as a photographer at the age of 21 to pursue a career with the Delaware State Police, Mr. Smyth told the young, budding photojournalist, “You really don’t want to do that. You were made for this job. You have ink in your blood.”

“The Ink in My Blood” can be purchased online for $35 at www.ink-in-my-blood.com after the first shipment of books arrives on Wednesday, May 15. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to the book at https://www.facebook.com/The-Ink-in-My-Blood-2427253267326187/.

Mr. Smyth, now the board chair for Independent Newspapers Inc., got an early look at the book and was amazed at the amount of Delaware history that was contained in its pages.

Photos from the book.

“When the book arrived, my wife and I were both stunned at what a terrific job Gary and his wife Dee have done,” Mr. Smyth said. “This book is absolutely beautiful. It should become a collector’s item for everybody who loves journalism, and for everybody who loves Delaware.

“We have ordered copies for all six of our children and for my sister — all of whom were born in Delaware. Some were young when they left Delaware, but Gary’s book will rekindle their love of their native state. And they’ll get to know Gary as one of those rare individuals who found precisely the right job very early in life and got to spend an entire career doing something he really loved.”

Mr. Smyth added that in that sense, he and Gary are kindred spirits.
“Gary Emeigh is a lucky guy,” said Mr. Smyth. “What an amazing career he has had. And those of us who know him — or who get to know him now through his book — are lucky, too. He’s a Delaware treasure and a Diamond State gem.”

Mr. Emeigh credits his wife for pushing him to complete the project. He dedicated the book to his children: Lisa, Michelle, Mary, Gary, Kristen and Monica, writing, “I’m happy with the moments of time I managed to capture with my camera over the past 50 years, but my greatest accomplishment in life was every one of you.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about meandering through Mr. Emeigh’s photos in the book is that it appears that he has always given the same amount of attention to each assignment, whether it be a local Little League baseball game or a visit to Delaware by a United States President.

Mr. Emeigh’s career has gone from mixing chemicals in a darkroom and developing photos on deadline to the new realities of the no-film digital age, but he has met every challenge head-on.

He noted that the game of photojournalism has changed in other ways over the years, adding that he followed “in the footsteps of the original photographer, Gary Abernathy, who I really admired when I was looking at newspapers every day. He was unbelievable and I just followed in his footsteps.”

“It would be hard to get many of these pictures in today’s world,” added Mr. Emeigh. “First of all, (first responders) are a lot faster than they were in those days and they invented that yellow tape that they put outside the scene (to keep people — including photographers — away).

“It also takes a long time to develop a relationship with the fire service and the police to where they know that you’re going to stay out of their way. You can’t just walk up and do a crime scene or an action scene.”
He added, “I’m glad I did it in the era that I did it.”

“The Ink in My Blood” is broken down into several different sections, such as education, events and entertainment, sports, first responders, military salute, neighbors, famous faces, and many others, almost like a daily newspaper except on a much-grander scale.

Andrew West, executive editor of the Delaware State News, said he knew Mr. Emeigh’s work best as a competitor from The News Journal. However, he has gotten to know Mr. Emeigh much better since he has been contributing to the newspaper as a freelancer in recent years.

“The book is a wonderful journey through five decades of news and events and change in journalism,” Mr. West said. “I have spent hours looking at the photos. Gary experienced just about every big event in Delaware and what he has compiled shows just how hard he has worked in a business that demands dedication and sacrifice.

“Gary, like all of us old-school journalists, still loves the chase. There is always another great photo and another great story. After 50 years, he still has that fire in him.”

Dee Marvin Emeigh said it has been a pleasure to help her husband preserve all those memories. She was tasked with the design of the book while Mr. Emeigh made the final decisions.

“We can put a book together of your best photos so everyone can see them, I’d say,” Mrs. Emeigh said. “I didn’t think he believed me.”

In the book, she wrote, “It seems cliché to say this book is a miracle. Miracles, we think, don’t involve work; they just happen. Yet, the timing of our meeting, the combination of our talents and skills, and the faithfulness of God to see it through to completion were major factors in its production.”

Flying airplanes, working on radios and taking pictures are some of the things, besides family, that are closest to Mr. Emeigh’s heart.
Now, maybe he will have to add publishing books to that list.

“The response has been unbelievable,” said Mr. Emeigh, who continues to work as a freelance photographer for both the Delaware State News and The News Journal five years after retiring full-time. “I can’t wait for the other shipment to get here. I had 100 (copies) brought in early just for close friends and co-workers and people that I know. I’ve gotten nothing but positive response, especially when Joe Smyth called me. He was overwhelmed with it and ordered eight more copies. He said, ‘You documented something that no one else will ever do.’”

Of course, he did.

That’s because he always has had ink in his blood — and always will.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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