Sunday, September 13, 2009

Steve Snoddy: We Barely Knew Ye...

I found out tonight that Steve would have been 60 today. There was a celebration of his life at the Brickyard Crossing resort this evening and it was standing room only - photographers, IRL and IMS officials, television and radio personalities, and numerous others. I hope Steve's son's Stuart finds some solace in knowing that his racing family will miss Steve very much. I felt honored to be there and want to say thanks to those who let me know via email and Facebook.

I can't honestly say I was a friend of Steve's so perhaps I have no business even writing this, but there are moments from our interaction over the years that I feel compelled to share. Others who knew him better than I did can certainly add chapter and verse to these experiences, but having just seen him at the Chicagoland IRL race two weekends ago, to learn about his sudden passing was a shock and reminds me that the time to say what is felt is now as tomorrow could be too late.

My first year shooting the Indy 500 was 1984 and looking back on it now, I was completely out of my league. But I wanted to be involved and was eager to learn. I didn't know who Steve was but I knew he was "somebody" at IMS. Over the next few years, I would run into him occasionally at Firehouse Color Lab on East Washington picking up prints and he was always willing to offer tips and advice. "Fill the frame ", he'd say. "Be patient and let the cars come to you" was another tidbit I remembered. His images always seemed tack sharp while I was happy then to get a handful of good images out of a roll of 36. As it happens at the Speedway, I learned pretty quickly who he was in the network of racing photographers and my respect for his work only grew over the years.

I was blessed with the opportunity to work for the IMS staff from 1992 through 1996 and got to see Steve more often but I was still the low man on the totem pole and he was the accomplished photog. He was clearly a ringleader of the group and obviously loved what he was doing at IMS. Four or five years ago, I was playing hooky from work and just "happened" to be at IMS when an IROC test was going on, so I thought I would stop in the Indy 500 photo office in the Speedway Museum to see if Ron McQueeney was around. I wanted to talk with Ron about some of the mistakes I had made while working for him and try and set things right with him if I could. To my surprise, Ron was in his office and was willing to give me a few minutes of his time. Steve was there that day and every so often since then, when I saw Steve at a racetrack, he would ask me how I was doing. He always seemed genuinely concerned and I really appreciated that. He didn't need to do that and it was a reflection of the kind of guy I began to know.

Fast forward to April 2009 at Salem Speedway for the ARCA race. Some of us were standing around on pit lane before the driver autograph session and Steve walked up. It was the same weekend as the St. Petersburg IRL event so I was surprised to see him and asked him what he was doing at an ARCA race at Salem. He said "he needed to shoot a race" and that said it all. It was the first race of the 2009 season for me after a long winter and I knew exactly what he meant.

Then at the Texas IRL race in June, I was in the media center at one point trying to cool off and he asked me about doing something for him. I asked if he needed help and he said there was a photographer who might be interested in pictures of the NASCAR truck race and gave me her name and phone number. He said he was counting on me and whatever I could work out money-wise would be between me and her so I called her and found out what she needed. I felt like he was throwing me a bone, and even though the opportunity didn't bear any immediate fruit, I was grateful that he felt I could help someone else out -- there were plenty of other photographers there that weekend he could have gone to rather than me.

Just two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway where Steve served as the track photographer as well as shooting for the IRL, we were standing in the lunch line Saturday afternoon chatting and I introduced him to someone that was fairly new to racing photography and he was gracious and accommodating. This was hours after the morning photo meeting where I had talked with him about getting a special sticker for outside wall access. I had jokingly addressed him as "Mr. Snoddy" that morning and he was willing to help (as usual) and told me what to do next year to be sure I got that access.

Around this same time, I had contacted the photographer from Steve's Texas lead through Facebook and mentioned in my friend request that I owed Steve a thanks for the chance to help her out. A few days later, I got the news that Steve had passed away unexpectedly and was completely taken aback. Tonight's celebration at the Brickyard Crossing was very touching and I know there were many more who would have attended but could not due to distance. There was a lot of love in that room tonight. So if I didn't say this before, I regret that: tonight I say, "Thanks Steve".

Godspeed, Mr. Snoddy.


Stuart said...

Thank you for the kind words about my father.

Janie Jackman said...

It does my heart good to read your words about Steve. I dated him for a few years, and I know how much the photography family meant to him. I found out about his death too late to attend the memorial service, but I smiled at reading there was standing room only. Just as it should have been. He had a kind and giving spirit, always ready to help. I saw him give, sometimes when he didn't even have it to give. I'm glad so many people remember him fondly. He was humble and would be a bit embarrassed by it, but he would be pleased.