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Wallie Funk: 70 years of photojournalism

Wallie Funk's photos line the halls of the Heritage Resources Special Collections in Wilson Library. // Photo by Caleb Galbreath
Wallie Funk’s photos line the halls of the Heritage Resources Special Collections in Wilson Library. // Photo by Caleb Galbreath

During his seven decade photojournalism career centered in the Pacific Northwest, Wallie Funk captured iconic images of United States presidents, Beatles and Rolling Stones concerts in Seattle and historic events in Washington state.

A collection of his photography is available through winter quarter on the sixth floor of Wilson Library, as part of Heritage Resources Special Collections.

“Wallie’s collection gets a great deal of views. He’s documented some really important events and some of them are fun like the Beatles, but the Penn Cove whale capture was really significant,” said Elizabeth Joffrion, the director of Heritage Resources, who has known Funk for the last 15 years.

Funk, now 90, worked as a photographer, journalist and co-owner of the Anacortes American, the Whidbey News-Times and the South Whidbey Record over the course of his career.

In 1970, people captured orcas from the wild at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island. Funk was able to shoot close up images of the whales in nets, Joffrion said.

“Very rarely is local news covered in a way that Wallie was able to cover it,” Joffrion said.

In the exhibit, there are two photos from the Penn Cove whale capture, showing two sides of the story: the whales in captivity and the response from land. Another image shows traffic on Deception Pass during a similar whale capture as people crowded around to watch.

“It really began to push a movement of looking at orcas, not as something for zoos but as something that’s wild and should be maintained in its wild state,” Joffrion said. “It was really an important set of photographs that we could use.”

Among the collection, Western has copyright to a series of photographs documenting presidential visits to Washington state, Joffrion said.

“These are images that are not really known in the public,” Joffrion said. “You often see some of the same images of Kennedy over and over again.”

Joffrion said it was a pleasure for the staff to select which images were chosen for the exhibit and research the scripts describing each photograph.

“He had a real wonderful eye with his camera, and I think the beauty of some of his photography is he was able to capture that moment in a shared nature human experience,” said Ruth Steele, an archivist for the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies. “There is something that we can all kind of relate to in those images.”

To get more information on Funk and his work, there will be an open panel discussion in Special Collections on the sixth floor of Wilson Library at 4 p.m. on Feb. 2. Special guests include Paul Cocke, the director of the Office of Communications, Theresa Trebon of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and journalism professor and photojournalist Scott Terrell.

The exhibit is currently open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

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