A note I received

CHERRY HILL, NJ – JANUARY 5: Dr. Carmela V. Calvo (C), her daughter Danielle N. Pryor (L), and John Joseph Pryor (R) leave after burial services for her husband, Dr. John Pryor of Moorestown, New Jersey January 5, 2009 at Colestown Cemetery in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Age 42 years. Passed away tragically December 25th, 2008 in Iraq, where he was a member of the US Army Surgical Unit. Pryor was assistant Professor of Surgery and Director of the Trauma Departmentat the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

It’s an image that to this day makes me emotional. 
It’s an image that I wish I didn’t have to make.
It’s an image and moment, I will never forget.
It’s an image that 11 years later, one of the sons of the surgeon whose funeral I covered that cold day in January reached out to me via email.

The boy, now in his teens wrote, 
“Hello, my name is John Pryor, you might not have remembered but back in 2008 you took photos for my dads funeral service (John Paul Pryor MD). I was 4 years old when he died and I don’t remember the funeral. I have looked at all the phots on Getty images but I was wondering if the was even a small chance you have anymore it would mean the world to me thank you.
John Pryor”

I responded, hesitantly within a day or so. Hesitant because the last thing I wanted to do was bring up the trauma of his fathers passing in Iraq.The boy’s father, Dr. John Pryor, 42, of Moorestown, New Jersey, passed away tragically on Christmas Day 2008 in Iraq, where he was a member of the US Army Surgical Unit. Pryor was assistant Professor of Surgery and Director of the Trauma Departmentat the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The man was beloved by all who knew or met him. A great father, husband, and all around special human being.
I asked him to give me a few days and I would look through the archives to see if I could find the folder from that January day.

Within a few days, I had located and set up the gallery so the boy could view them. I know it’s generally not protocol for a photojournalist to show outtakes from an assignment. This, I felt I needed to do. My gut told me it might help the boy in some way to get some kind of closure. Even knowing that while my own father died in 2012, I’m still not ok with that. 

I wrote the boy, now young man, “Your father’s funeral is one assignment I will never forget. What I recall most is that fact that when you and the rest of your family were walking away from the gravesite and I was making pictures I remember being thankful that no one could see me behind the camera because I was probably crying as much as anyone else in attendance.” 

I went on to write, “I also recall being upset with my assignment editor that day because she wanted me to make pictures at the cemetery. None of my colleagues from any of the other major wire services, or my fouler colleagues at The Philadelphia Inquirer had plans to make pictures there. And I told my editor that I didn’t believe anyone would allow me to make pictures at the cemetery. She told me to reach out to the funeral director, who in turn reached out to your mom, and she agreed that I could make pictures at the cemetery as long as I stayed back and shot with a long lens. As far as I know I was the only one that she agreed to allow into the cemetery at the time. I never did have chance to thank her, so, please tell her Thank You for allowing me to intrude that day. It was probably one of the hardest events I have covered. And not something I would ever want to do again.”

So, with the gallery setup, I sent the link to John. He responded, “Hello the image you are talking about is my mom with my older sister and my older brother. We still live in Moorestown and our family has been doing well. I have come to notice that as I grow older I find new grief related to my dads death. I am very thankful that you took the time to help me it means a lot. I understand how my dads funeral must have been hard but I thank you because I now have the opportunity to see it and fully process it.”

In my email reply, I opened up about the death of my own father, thinking I may be able to help the boy, I wrote, “My father passed away in 2012. I find that I still am not over it. Every where I turn there is always something there that will remind me of him. Sounds like you are having similar feelings. The way I look at it is that while I’ll never get over the loss, I will just have to learn to live with it, eventually. It just takes time.”
John wrote back that he was sorry to hear about my father and it meant a lot to him.

A few hours later, I received another email from John. It still to this day brings tears to my eyes.

So many times I feel that as a photojournalist, what I do doesn’t matter. I feel as though no one appreciates or understands what we do. Picture do not lie, and our efforts to tell the truth visually rarely are thanked or appreciated. We are at times an afterthought as far as the chain of command ay newspapers and magazine go. 

But, this response, made whatever I do photographical, or wherever I might make picture, no matter what the subject matter.

At least to me.

For one moment in time.

It is a response I am forever grateful for and will never ever forget.

John responded, “Mr. Cain words can not describe how thankful I am for these photos. Every photo helped me remember that day. I’ve seen pictures of family I didn’t think was there. You helped me see with my own eyes how many people cared for my father and that is something only you could have given me. I had doubts reaching out to you, I didn’t know if you would have remember or be too busy to respond. But you did and I am forever grateful for your compassion. My mom is grateful too. She told me that she aloud you to take photos for this exact reason, so that me and my siblings could remember that day. I don’t want you to feel like you were intruding because if it wasn’t for you I would have forgotten that day. Thanks you for everything you have done for me and my family Sincerely John Pryor “

After the tears subsided, I wrote John back, “Hi John,I was hesitant to set up the gallery at first. I was concerned it might hurt more then help. I’m very happy it helped. 
The pictures definitely tell a story of the amount of love and support that was and is still there for you and your family. Of course I would respond. For as long as I’ve been working as a photojournalist (I was a sophomore at UArts when I turned pro) my goal has always been to be true to the people or subjects that I photograph. I feel as though I owe them something for allowing me to step into their lives and make pictures. So, I will always respond…good or bad.
It is nice to hear that you folks don’t consider it an intrusion. That means the world to me. I am glad you did reach out. So many times in my career it has felt like we just step all over people and come in and out of their lives never knowing what became of them. In this case it sounds like you’re growing into a fine young dude.

Your father would be proud. 

I’m certain your mom is as well.”


It’s an image that actually helped someone.
It’s life.

The email. That was gift. From a young boy turned into a fine young man.

May God Bless you and your family John Pryor. 

Your father is looking down from heaven and smiling.

27 Years Ago…

I’ve been feeling a bit melancholic of late. I wasn’t sure why, until my late friend’s sister posted a picture in memory of him. That post reminded me that it’s been 27 years since my friend passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident. My friend Jim, who I had known since 5th grade, (about the time we were in cub scouts) spent almost every day in high school with, and thought of his family as mine, and he the same.

I couldn’t believe it, but there it was in print in the newspaper where I worked. Written by a reporter friend. “Collision, fiery blast kills cyclist” I had heard about the accident the morning before, still didn’t believe it. There it was though, like a smack to the face saying, yeah, it’s true. It happened. 

Almost every day of 7th grade, at lunch, Jim and our friend Mike would duke it out at lunch to see who was toughest. It was funny, during the lunch period, it was war. As soon as lunch was over, just like before, they were the best of friends laughing and joking. That was Jim. Fiery spirit, but friend to the end with one heck of a sense of humor. No matter what.

As a motorcyclist myself, we had many conversations over the years about motorbike safety. He loved to race his motorcycle, fast. I wasn’t worried about his driving, but the other cars around him. I had once taken a spill on my bike, and since then was always a defensive rider. Jim was fast, but defensive. The accident that took his life would have been unavoidable for anyone. A car stalls on a highway, before you speed behind it without seeing it is hard to react. I later found out what caused the explosion from some of my police friends, but the end result was still the same. 

Once, when my tire literally fell off my car after someone at the shop where he worked supposedly fixed it, he knew I was shaken up, but said, “At least it wasn’t me that tried to kill you.” He later told me that he almost killed the guy that had worked on my car for almost killing his friend.

High school was no different than grade school or cub scouts. In high school we both decided we wanted to go to technical school. Jim to study auto mechanics and me art. Two weeks at home school and two weeks at tech school per month. We loved it. Jim was always into cars. And he was always the go to person if I ever had a question on how to fix something in my car. Could tell you the answer in two seconds. Always. We drove to school many days over those years. Listening to “Chicken Man” or the “DeBella Travesty.” I remember when he met his future wife, who was studying baking. Never saw him with a smile as big as that day. Well, maybe after his daughter’s birth. Another smile the size of Texas. 

“Run Jim, Run!!” It’s 11:30 am. We’ve just been let out of classes for the day. Every day, before we got our licenses to drive, Jim and I would run, full speed from Bishop Egan High School to the Levittown train station. 2 miles. We wanted to make the 11:55 am train that stopped in Cornwells Heights, which was maybe a mile from our homes. We did this for almost half a year. Raced each other to the train station. Never missed the train once. We cheered and encouraged each other not to slow down, but go faster. If we missed the train, the schoolbus wasn’t coming until 2:30PM. And we hated staying at school for any reason. So we would run as fast as we could.

On the fateful day, when I heard that my friend, at 27 years old, was gone leaving behind a wife and young 7 year old daughter I was in shock, disbelief and full of sadness. Jim was one of the people on this planet that I could see myself being friends with as long as we both lived. Saw it from 5th grade on. It, sadly wasn’t meant to be. 

In my life, I’ve made many friends over the years. 

Some friends come, some friends go. 

Some stick with you in your heart until the day you die.
To me, that is my friend Jim. He’ll be with me forever in spirit, but God, I wish he was still here.

27 years ago August 23 my friend passed away at 27 years old. 

Still feels like yesterday. 

Still hurts. 

Still makes me sad. 

Still makes me angry.

27 years after his death at 27 years old…

I still miss my friend.

RIP David Montgomery

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 31: Philadelphia Phillies President Dave Montgomery hold the World Series trophy during the World Championship Parade October 31, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win their first World Series in 28 years. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

This is the way I remember Dave Montgomery. 

Looking happy as could be while holding that 2008 World Series Championship trophy after the Philadelphia Phillies defeated Tampa Bay to win their first championship since 1980. Montgomery, who in 1997 became the first home grown kid in over 60 years to run the team as president, deserved it. 

A class guy, well respected, wonderful man. He was always a pleasure to be around and always made us in the media laugh.

Sadly, Montgomery passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. 

I found out about his passing after this image I made while covering the parade in 2008 popped up on Facebook as his obituary photo. 

It’s an appropriate way to remember him. 

He loved baseball. 

He loved his Phillies. 

He loved Philadelphia. 

And we loved him. 

RIP David






.?:@cainimages #baseball #phillies #mlb #philadelphiaphillies #photojournalist #philadelphiaphotojournalist #pennsylvania  #philly #photooftheday #photographer #photography #photojournalism #color #nikon #professionalphotojournalist #professionalphotographer #anydayicanwakeupandmakeapictureisagreatday #itswhatido #sports #sportsphotojournalist #montgomery #rip @gettyimages #mygettyoffice #obituary @phillies @mlb 

Is Justice Really Served?

Jacob Patrick Sullivan, 44, of Horsham, arrives for his arraignment on 19 charges, including criminal homicide, rape, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and a number of related conspiracy counts Sunday January 8, 2017 in Newtown, Pennsylvania. He is accused of conspiring with Sara Packer, Grace’s mother, to rape and kill the teen, dismembering her body and dumping her remains in a wooded area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, some 100 miles from where Grace lived in Abington Township. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/CAIN IMAGES)

In all of my years as a professional photojournalist, this, was the most horrific story I ever had to cover.

The morning of January 8, 2017 was very cold. Since 10 pm the night before, we waited outside freezing our butts off until 3am when police brought the guy in for his arraignment. The person arrested was Jacob Sullivan, 44, of Horsham, on 19 charges, including criminal homicide, rape, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and a number of related conspiracy counts. He was accused of conspiring with Sara Packer (who was arrested later that day, apparently without shaving her face), Grace Parker’s mother, to rape and kill the 14 year old, dismembering her body and dumping her remains in a wooded area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, some 100 miles from where the girl lived in Abington Township.

After months of investigation this monster was brought to justice.

Today, justice was served when a
jury sentenced him to death. My first thought upon hearing the sentencing was that it isn’t enough. A monster like that should have to suffer the same way his victim suffered. Then again, that’s not even enough. I wish there was a fate worse then death, and that this person had to suffer through it. Sadly, he will probably sit on death row for years before the execution ever takes place.

Although, I keep questioning if justice is really served. A young girl who, if she had lived, should be spending this spring deciding upon which college to eventually attend or thinking about summer vacations is no more. Dreams snuffed out for no reason other then some moron liked killing are gone. A hole is left in grandparents and friends lives that will never be filled.

Is justice really served? Is it?

Every Picture Has a Story: Marie Noe

Marie Noe arrives at her home in Philadelphia, Monday, June 28, 1999. The 70-year-old Noe plead guilty Monday to smothering eight of her ten young children under a plea agreement with prosecutors in a case that dated back to 1949. Under the plea agreement, Mrs. Noe will serve no jail time in exchange for pleading guilty to eight counts of second-degree murder and will be sentenced to 20 years of probation. (AP Photo/William Thomas Cain) (WILLIAM THOMAS CAIN/AP)

Marie Noe arrives at her home in Philadelphia, Monday, June 28, 1999. The 70-year-old Noe plead guilty Monday to smothering eight of her ten young children under a plea agreement with prosecutors in a case that dated back to 1949. Under the plea agreement, Mrs. Noe will serve no jail time in exchange for pleading guilty to eight counts of second-degree murder and will be sentenced to 20 years of probation. (AP Photo/William Thomas Cain) 

Every picture has a story behind the making of that image.

It’s June 28, 1999. A warm summer day. I pack up a single Nikkormat that had a busted light meter and an 85mm 1.8 lens along with a half a roll of film, hop into my Jeep Wrangler. No doors. No top. Warm air. Dreamy summer day for a drive into the upper parts of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I’m envisioning a long cruise with the radio on.

I leave the house. Head up Rt. 263 to Rt. 413. Make a left. Next thing you know I am in Bedminster. It’s about 11 AM.
The phone rings. It’s Bernadette Tuazon, who at the time was the Pennsylvania photo editor for the Associated Press. She asks if I’m available. I said yes, but all I have with me is a Nikkormat and two lenses along with a half roll of Fujicolor Film. It doesn’t matter. No one else was around. She asked if I can get to North Philadelphia…as soon as possible. Of course, I say yes. Apparently, Marie Noe, the 70-year-old woman who plead guilty to smothering eight of her ten young children was headed home for house arrest. I never in a million years thought I could get there in time and was very leary of the fact that I didn’t have much film (yes, this was way back when we shot film).

Somehow, in 60 minutes I made it from Bedminster to Noe’s home on American Street in Philadelphia. I arrived just as she was about to enter her home. I left out of the Jeep with my camera in hand. Luckily, it was loaded and ready to go. As I ran closer to the door setting my exposure. Remember, the meter did not work. I had to guess at the exposure. Overcast day, 400 ISO = 2000 @f5.6.



Luckily, she had a rough time with the lock. Her face was looking straight at the door, until Matt O’Donnell (God Bless Him!) from 6ABC in Philadelphia blurted out her name a few times. By that time I was standing next to Matt. I was able to make one image, turn the camera to the next frame and then one more click. She looked right at us with a scary look that I have yet to forget. At that moment, I knew I had the image I needed.

I then went and process the film. All two frames were perfect.

Nikkormat with 85mm 1.8 lens

Years before, one of my old Philadelphia Inquirer colleagues, Akira Suwa, said to me at lunch one day that I should be able to feel the light. He then quizzed me on the different exposures and ISO’s in certain situations. I did get them all correct, but I never thought anything of that conversation until the moment when i was guessing the exposure for Marie Noe’s image. Boy was he correct. That lesson at an every day lunch made me think. I’ve never forgotten that and always try to guess at the exposure before I use my light meter to this day.

That said. Here is the image of Marie Noe. It is with thanks to Bernadette Tuazon, Matt O’Donnell and Akira Suwa.




[a once and a while series telling the story behind the image]

Hundreds gather for candlelight vigil for Gianni Forte

Video that I made last night at the candle light vigil for 13 year old Gianni Forte, who was killed in an ATV accident last weekend.
Hundreds of community members came out to show their love and support for Gianni, his family and friends.
I spoke with his grandmother, who explained that Gianni was not allowed to ride without a helmet or on the street. Very sad story. One of the tougher things to photograph.

I Don’t Like Pictures of People Crying

In almost every photography class or lecture I show students images from my portfolio. It contains a bit of news, sports, entertainment and feature photos. This is shown to prove that I’m not some kind of lunatic and I actually do know how to make a picture that captures a moment that tells a story. Last night, I taught a basic photography class at one of my workshops (Cain Images Photographic Workshops). Everyone seemed to get what I was speaking about and learned how to use their cameras better in manual settings. After the class, a woman pulled me aside. And here I was thinking she was going to thank me for the class. But, no. She whispers, “You know when photographers take pictures of people crying. I don’t like that. It’s invading their privacy.” I’m pretty sure she was referring to this image.

Mourners Remember Well-Known Trauma Surgeon Killed In Iraq

My response was, “Do you think we like making those kinds of pictures? See the full post