Call out for Redding photographer
When the Carr Fire destroyed their home, Robert McKenzie lost more than his possessions. The professional photographer, whose photos grace homes in and outside of the North State, lost a lifetime of wilderness and travel photographs.
Now those who purchased McKenzie’s photos have a chance to help him restore his collection by bringing the photos to Crown Camera in Redding to be digitized.
The collection was a total loss otherwise.
The Carr Fire ripped through Robert and Marcia McKenzie’s Sunset Terrace neighborhood on Thursday, July 26, close to where the fire jumped the Sacramento River. It destroyed the custom-built home they inhabited for 50 years and everything in it.
They evacuated around 7 p.m. with “just the clothes on our back,” said McKenzie, 95.
A neighbor came to their house and insisted they follow.
“She told me the fire was coming,” McKenzie said. “I didn’t think it was, but she was right.”
The fire destroyed all of McKenzie’s equipment and archives.
“I lost about 75,000 Kodachrome slides” and negatives, said McKenzie, who worked as a dentist in Redding before he retired to take photos full time. “I had three film cameras and three digitals.”
The couple traveled extensively, taking vacations to Europe, Asia and Africa. Robert McKenzie always took a camera along.
“We lost all our travel pictures,” Marcia McKenzie said.
Photo of Mt. Shasta’s Castle Dome by photographer Robert McKenzie. Decades of McKenzie’s work was destroyed in the Carr Fire. (Photo: Robert McKenzie)
Frank Tona is heading up a project to restore as much of McKenzie’s collection as possible. The photography instructor and manager of Crown Camera is asking anyone who owns McKenzie’s photos to bring them to the shop at 1365 Market St. in Redding. The lab will digitize them for McKenzie free of charge, then return the originals to their owners.
It’s not just a random act of kindness.
Once a patient of McKenzie’s when he was a child, Tona owes much of his initial passion for photography to him. He was 25 years old when he met Robert McKenzie at the photo counter in a Redding drugstore more than 30 years ago.
“He said, ‘Let’s go take some pictures,’” Tona said.
Now it’s his career.
“I can kind of blame him,” Tona said, laughing. “He taught me things I teach in classes today.”
Eight decades in photos gone
Robert McKenzie isn’t sure when he was first bitten by the photo bug.
“It’s so long ago I can’t remember,” he said. “I fooled around with a camera before World War II. During World War II I bought a folding camera — a Kodak Vigilant — and used that.”
He was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy for four years during the war. His collection included photos he took where he was stationed in Hawaii.
His main subjects during his 80 years of standing behind a camera were outdoor scenes. Many were taken on hiking trips in the North State.
“I’ve hiked every mountain in this (part of) the country out here,” he said. “I still walk quite a bit.”
More: EXCLUSIVE: Aerial view of Carr Fire destruction shows extent of damage to Redding
Rather than wait for the rebuild, the couple plan to move to an independent living facility in Redding.
McKenzie plans to start rebuilding his collection of photos as soon as he gets a new camera. It should come in the mail in about a week. Until then, he’s scoping out future subject matter.
“I’m going to work around the place on Bechelli Lane for a while,” he said of his new neighborhood. “It’s got a great view.”
Fire couldn’t singe anniversary celebration
The McKenzies home burned three weeks shy of their 70th anniversary on Aug. 15. Their family was going to throw them a party at the couple’s home in Redding, but the fire wrecked those plans.
Instead four generations gathered at the home of one of their daughters in the Bay Area.
Marcia McKenzie said the change of venue didn’t diminish their celebration.
“We have three wonderful daughters, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren,” she said. “We enjoyed seeing all the family. Those great grandchildren are so fun and cheery.”
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