The International Fire Photographers Association proudly presents, its first Featured Member, Mr. Richard J. Keyworth, CFPS, CHMM.
Mr. Keyworth was one of the founding members of the IFPA. Since the IFPA is celebrating its 45th anniversary, Mr. Keyworth was an obvious choice for this honor.
Mr. Keyworth was kind enough to provide insight into how he began his photography career as well as the early cameras and other equipment he started with. He discuses some of the techniques taught to him by other professional photographers he became freinds with.
Mr. Keyworth provides light onto the rich history of the inception of the IFPA and discusses how photography played a role in the rest of his life adventures.
Join the IFPA in welcoming Mr. Keyworth as its first Featured Member as well as thanking him for helping to create the IFPA some 45 years ago and making the IFPA what it is today.
Richard J. Keyworth, CFPS, CHMM
I would like to thank the Officers and Directors of the IFPA for inviting me to be the first Featured Member to be profiled. I consider this to be an Honor and I appreciate this opportunity. I would like to offer this profile for your review and hope you would find it interesting.
My interest in photography began in the late 1950’s when I began taking pictures with a Kodak Brownie Camera. This was a simple box camera that took rolls of film. This interest spurred me to move up to a Mamiya Twin Lens Reflex Camera. I began shooting more pictures and then set up my own darkroom to develop, print and enlarge my own black & white Photos. During the early 1960’s I became a member of the Northlake, IL Civil Defense Volunteer Rescue Squad. This developed an interest in fire and emergency service photography. When I was on the rescue squad I was introduced to Mr. Bill Bender. Bill was the last Crime Photographer for the Chicago Tribune and he introduced me to the field of Crime Photography. I spent many nights riding along with Bill and learning the technical aspects of photography as well as the real world of crime, fires etc. I went to every type and matter of crime and fire etc. occurring in and around Chicago and the suburbs. Bill also convinced me to buy a real professional camera. What I saw and learned definitely prepared me for the future.
In the mid 1960’s I joined the Itasca Volunteer Fire Department and I was working a day job and chasing fires etc all night as a free lance photographer. I had a car loaded with radios and would monitor the Fire and Police frequencies and then chase down calls to get some pictures. Through Bill I became friends with the Photo Editor at the Chicago Tribune. I would call him to see if he was interested in the photos I shot, I would then drive down into the city and deliver them. They would pay for the pictures and I would be off again. Thankfully gas and supplies were much less expensive than today. By this time I had graduated to Nikon F - 35mm Cameras and carried 3 of them. Electronic flash (Strobes) had come along and they were much more efficient than the old bulbs. I then carried several strobes and slaves.
I also learned from my good friend and professional photographer, Boots Crofoot to always put my cameras away set for f8 at a 60th of a second. This way when I took them out even in pitch darkness, I could begin shooting pictures and adjust accordingly without physically looking at the settings. He taught me to operate the camera as an extension of your arm and hand and concentrate on your subject. Good advice which served me well over the years. He also tried to make me a portrait photographer however, he reached the determination that I was an excellent forensic photographer but not an artistic or portrait photographer.
I had met the Chicago Fire Department Photo unit on a number of occasions and Chief George Schuler and F/F’s Don Walpole and Dick Liebeck invited me to a photography conference they were going to hold at the Chicago Fire Academy. There were a number of fire photographers there from Chicago, the suburbs and surrounding states and it was decided to form an association for fire photographers. We began holding annual conferences in Chicago from about 1966 to 1972. We also held some photo seminars at the Elmhurst, IL Fire Department and other locations. In the fall of 1970 I hosted a Fire Photography Seminar along with the IFPA and the Elk Grove Village Fire Department in Elk Grove Village, IL.
During our early uses of photography in the fire field everything was shot in black and white. Color if used was only for display or competition. Color photography was not allowed in court because defense attorneys as well as prosecutors felt color was much too inflammatory and would unfairly tarnish a jury’s decision. One of the people who fought and lobbied for the use of color photography was Luke Day. Luke was the Law Enforcement Photography Representative for the Eastman Kodak Company. He traveled across the globe teaching the use of photography in law enforcement and fire service applications. He provided us with hundreds of rolls of TRI-X Pan Film, which was the standard for a number of years, at the conferences. We could shoot pictures and they would be processed and critiqued for our learning. He was a great friend to the IFPA and served as an instructor for many of our classes. His knowledge and expertise coupled with the likes of Don Walpole and Dick Liebeck from Chicago Fire Department, Bill Reynolds and Don Lansu from the Elmhurst IL FD; Joe Benyo, from MI and many others whose names escape me; provided us with a learning opportunity second to none and an association which was unique.
Fire Photography was used in training and education as well as in Public Relations, I can remember that the Chicago Fire Department Photo Unit had to cover every extra alarm fire or fire death, in the city, and have photos on Fire Commissioner Quinn’s desk the next morning, so he could speak to the media and show them how great his firemen were and the great job they did.
Chief Curtis Volkamer was the Chief Fire Marshal of the Chicago Fire Department in the 1960’s and 70”s. Chief Volkamer was Chief of all operations in the CFD. He also was a strong supporter of the IFPA and hosted many conferences at the Chicago Fire Academy during those years. They both supported Chief Schuler and the photo unit’s efforts to start the IFPA and get it off the ground. It should be noted that the CFD Photo unit also used the 4x5 Crown Graphic’s as their duty cameras back then.
Early on photographs were rarely used during trial. The defense attorney would ask the photographer if they were an “Expert Photographer”. If the photographer answered in the affirmative then the defense attorney would open the Focal Encyclopedia, and began asking questions which George Eastman (founder of Eastman Kodak Co) himself could not possibly answer. This would then serve to disqualify the photographer and also the photographs. Thankfully as time went on the process was influenced by common sense and the questioning was limited to “Does this photograph truly and accurately represent the scene as you saw it? Eventually this question would elicit “Do you see in color or black and white?” This question then led to color photographs being accepted because we see in color and not black and white. That was a dramatic step forward in the field of fire and forensic photography.
In 1969 I was accepted as a Professional F/F with the Elk Grove Village Fire Department. The Village of Elk Grove Village was a tremendous learning opportunity. Through the years, the Village grew to become home to more than 3,700 industrial occupancies, ranging in size from 1,500 square feet to over 1 million square feet in a single building. Our daytime population grew to over 95,000 people and our residential population was about 36,000. We eventually covered 14 schools, a medical center, nursing homes, 8 shopping centers, and two interstate highways. Elk Grove Village is located on the Western edge of O’Hare International Airport. We grew to average about 12, 000 trucks a day in our industrial park, with over 1,400 tank trucks a day through a single intersection. The fire department reached an excess of 5, 000 runs a year covering everything from Fire, EMS, Rescue, and Hazmat, to other miscellaneous calls for service. We grew from 1 station and 27 F/F’s to 4 stations and about 93 sworn personnel and 7 staff.
In 1970 I began working part time for Hoyle Klausing and Associates as a Private Investigator in the areas of fire and explosion investigation. I was investigating fires and explosions just about every day I was off duty. Each of our investigators was responsible for their own photography; and then preparation of reports for clients and court room presentation. Our prints ranged from 8x10 to 36x48 inches for presentation.
An example of the importance of photography came during a trial I was involved with where I investigated a fire on behalf of the insurance interests. The fire was incendiary in origin and the photographs were vital in proving my theory as to the fire origin and cause. Based upon my investigation the insurance company had denied the insured claim for damages. The insured then filed a lawsuit against the insurance company to recover for his damages. I was testifying for the defense in this matter. During testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, they were coming up with an entirely different conclusion than I had reached. Plaintiff’s expert investigator was referring to a diagram of the structure, which made his whole case plausible. I suddenly realized that they had purposely reversed the building diagram to make their case. When I pointed this out to defense counsel, I showed him the photographs which showed the building diagram had been reversed. Upon cross examination, defense counsel pointed out the error in the diagram, which the plaintiff’s investigator was referring to. This then proved their entire theory was contrived, using the reversed diagram which led to the false conclusion. Plaintiff’s counsel tried to explain this as an accidental error. The jury quickly realized the trickery involved and ruled in our favor denying the plaintiff any proceeds from the insurance claim. The claim was proven to be fraudulent. If I hadn’t taken the photographs showing the entire building they would have succeeded in their fraudulent pursuit. The old story that one picture is worth a thousand words was proven true.
In 1972 I was retained to teach a class at Harper Junior College in Palatine, IL on Fire Cause and Investigation. This was supposed to be a one semester class, which then led to 14 years as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor in the Fire Science Curriculum. This was 2 to 4 nights a week. During my career I had taken a great number of color slides which were used for teaching and training. I reached the point where I had close to 40,000 color slides spanning some 40 years of photography. I taught classes in Fire Prevention Principles; Fire Inspection Applications; Fire Investigation; Hazardous Materials; Building Construction; and Fire Service Management.
In the early 1980’s I also began to operate my own consulting firm on a part time basis. I had developed an expertise in the area of amusement ride safety inspection and was conducting inspections of carnival and amusement park rides across the country. This then led to investigating accidents involving amusement rides. Here again I was constantly shooting color pictures as well as slides. I conducted training courses in the Inspection of Amusement Rides, for fire inspectors and building officials. It was much easier to bring trays of slides to a class room, than to bring a Ferris wheel or a carrousel into the class room. Through the use of photographs I could show the students what to look for when they went onto a carnival midway or amusement park.
My greatest achievement came about 26+ years ago in the fall of 1982. I was fortunate to have been involved with the discovery of the link between the pain medication “TYLENOL” and a series of Cyanide related deaths here in the Chicago-land area. This was the first reported case of Domestic Terrorism in the United States. The involvement of Lt. Phil Cappittelli of the Arlington Heights, IL Fire Department and I led to the removal of millions of capsules of TYLENOL from store shelves across the nation. The capsules which had caused these deaths had been tampered with and contained cyanide. We were advised by the Cook County Coroner Dr. Stein; that if we had not discovered the link which had killed 6 people already; the crime may never have been discovered. The killings could have gone on for years. Reportedly there were as many as 60 additional contaminated capsules found, besides the millions which were destroyed and never tested. We were told by Dr. Stein that we were being credited with saving at least 60 lives.
On December 30, 2000 I retired from the Elk Grove Village Fire Department at the rank of Lieutenant and Hazmat Officer. During my career; I served as a F/F, Company Officer, Shift Commander, Fire Apparatus Engineer, Fire Inspector Level II, Fire & Arson Investigator, HAZ MAT Technician, Incident Commander, Hazmat Officer, Educator, Training Instructor, Photographer, Trench Rescue Technician and Environmental Crimes Investigator. I have testified in court on over 300 separate matters and have been “Qualified as an Expert” in Cause and Origin of Fires, Amusement Ride Accidents, and Environmental Crimes.
Upon retirement I opened my own consulting firm KEYWORTH FIRE AND SAFETY CONSULTANTS. I specialize in the areas of Business Continuity, Fire Protection, Homeland Security, Life Safety, and Risk Management. I am also a motivational speaker in the areas of Ethics, and Management. I continue to use photography today in my inspections and reports to my clients. It is easier to explain a problem if the client can view a photograph and understand what we are detailing.
I must admit that several years ago, I finally made the change to the digital world and converted to a new Cannon EOS digital camera. I have to admit the storage required is considerably less with digital than the 30+ thousand color slides I had plus the thousands of print pictures which I have slowly started to part with.
The digital area is interesting to me in that everyone believes they are instantly a professional photographer and have no need to learn the craft. They can now download to a computer to edit and make photos do all sorts of wondrous things. I only hope that those coming into the field of Fire and Forensic photography today learn their craft and remember the camera is only a tool. As smart as cameras are today, they still require the nut behind the shutter to plan the shot and learn the ability of their equipment.
A Fire Photographer today has the ability to create an award winning photograph as well as the capability to photographically reproduce a scene as a Forensic Professional. The decision is yours. I would hope you become a professional and develop your knowledge and skill.
Photography has played a very important role in my entire career both in and out of the fire service. I continue to use photography in my consulting practice and also to document my travels across our great country.
In closing I would like to thank them members of the IFPA and all of those people across the ages; those who helped me, taught me, mentored me and assisted me. I have been very fortunate and have been allowed to give back to the field by educating, teaching, leading and motivating untold thousands of people to go forward and excel in their fields of endeavor. I consider my life a success.
My professional memberships now include:
|ACHMM - Academy of Certified Hazardous Materials Managers|
|ACP - Association of Contingency Planners|
|ASIS - (The largest security organization in the world) Vice-Chairman of IL North Shore Chapter|
|BRPA - Business Resumption Planners Association|
|CCC - Community Character Coalition of Elk Grove Village|
|EGVCoC - Elk Grove Village Chamber of Commerce|
|EGVLC - Elk Grove Village Lions Club (Past President & Director)|
|IFPA - International Fire Photographers Association|
|NFPA - National Fire Protection Asociation|
|NWBB - Northwest Business Builders|
|OABA - Outdoor Amusement Business Association|
|SLA - Showmen’s League of America|
You are welcome to visit my website at www.keyworthfireandsafety.com and e-mail or call me with any questions or comments and I will do my best to assist you. Thank you and remember “Today is the first day of the rest of your life, make it count.”