BANGOR, Maine — In 33 years as a photojournalist and photo editor at the Bangor Daily News, Scott Haskell has seen people at their highest of highs and lowest of lows.
His photographs captured celebration and joy, tragedy and grief, and almost everything in between.
He spent hot afternoons in blueberry fields, freezing mornings on rural roads and became skipper of the USS Maine nuclear submarine for a couple of minutes.
Haskell retired Friday, leaving behind thousands of images and stories covering the diversity of life in Maine.
“I’m so grateful to all the people over the years who have opened their lives, their hearts and homes so we might tell their stories,” Haskell said Thursday.
Haskell joined the staff in December 1977 after walking into the BDN looking for an internship.
“When I walked out, I had a job,” he said.
At the time, Haskell was studying journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He said it took him about a decade to get his degree because he spent so much time working at the BDN.
He spent three years working as a “full-time part-timer,” he said with a grin. “That was more acceptable back then.”
Haskell snapped his first pictures for the BDN at the Holiday Classic Tournament at the Bangor Auditorium. The first photograph was published Dec. 29, 1977.
“I’m not at all proud of that one,” Haskell said after seeing the picture again for the first time in decades. “It’s way out of focus.”
In 1993, Haskell was promoted, becoming photo editor. With the expansion of the paper’s Internet presence and increasing use of video, his title changed to visuals editor last year.
The BDN staff threw a retirement party for Haskell on Friday afternoon. His parents, E. Douglas and Mary Alice Haskell of Deer Isle, his wife, Nancy Ewing, and his 5-year-old son, Jackson, also attended the party.
“[Haskell] may well be the finest photojournalist Maine has ever produced,” Editor-in-Chief Mike Dowd said during the ceremony.
Dowd said Haskell has won numerous awards, including at least 12 first-place Maine Press Association awards, as well as multiple nods from national and New England press associations and the Society of News Design.
That doesn’t include the many awards won by photographers Haskell hired over the years.
“He’s been here for more than a quarter of the history of this news organization,” Dowd said. “We’re a better organization because of him.”
One of the things that most impresses his co-workers is his knowledge of the state and its culture.
In 33 years of traveling to assignments all over the state, Haskell said he probably has been to every town in Maine at least once. This has made him a virtual gazetteer — a “Wikipedia of information about every corner of the state,” said John Clarke Russ, a BDN photographer for eight years.
“Scott turned his job into a way of life,” Russ said, fighting back tears. “He was here to make a difference with the people he worked with and with the communities he traveled to.”
Haskell’s photographers said they’re still amazed at how much he cares for photographing news.
“He still has a love after all these years for the image,” said photographer Kate Collins. “He still lights up when working with a camera.”
“I’m sad because Scott’s not only a great person to work for, but he’s also been a great friend and mentor,” Collins said.
Haskell said that no two days in his career were ever the same. He marveled at the changes he saw in technology and journalism during his career. He said he has gone from processing his own black-and-white negatives and dragging film through chemicals in a darkroom to plugging his camera into a computer, editing and uploading photos and videos in minutes.
In his first years at the paper, he said photographers still were using typewriters to write their cutlines.
“It’s incredibly easy now,” Haskell said.
In “retirement,” a word Haskell said should be placed in quotation marks, he said he plans to spend more time with his family and focus on his health. He’s an avid golfer and paddler and plans to spend a lot of time enjoying Maine’s outdoors, he said.
He said he hopes to continue to take photos on a free-lance basis.
“I’ve always enjoyed telling people’s stories,” Haskell said, taking off his glasses to wipe away tears during his last day at work. “That’s what it’s all about.”