The following is the narrative and photographs from the GoFundMe entitled “Help Chris Pugh Replace Stolen Gear!”
My name is Carole Brodsky. I am a friend and former co-worker of Chris Pugh. Most of you know Chris as the Chief Photographer for the Ukiah Daily Journal, where he was employed for five years prior to the pandemic. It probably goes without saying, but all the photos in this request were taken by Chris and though the words are mine, the story is his.
Yesterday, Chris was the victim of a burglary, perpetrated in broad daylight behind the Medium Art Gallery, located in Ukiah’s Pear Tree Shopping Center. Parked less than 20 feet from the gallery’s back door, Chris left his backpack in his unlocked vehicle for less than 30 seconds while unlocking the gallery door. When he returned to the car, his backpack was gone. This is what was stolen:
- 15″ Macbook Pro – $2500
- Fuji X-T3 Digital Camera – $1200
- Fuji 23mm lens – $450
- Sekonic Light Meter – $400
- Langly Camera Backpack – $280
- Apple Airpods – $159
- Uniden Police Scanner – $120
- Notebook and other random personal items- $100
Unfortunately, according to the Ukiah Police Department, it is likely the items were stolen by someone living in a homeless encampment located behind the shopping center. It’s tragic, because had that person known the depth of compassion Chris has for un-homed people, having covered them extensively during his years at the UDJ, perhaps that person would have had second thoughts.
Chris is a lifetime resident of Mendocino County. Raised in Redwood Valley, graduating from Ukiah High, he is a well-known community advocate. Chris’s time at the UDJ provided him with an opportunity to use his skills to support, inform and inspire the place he calls home. We sobbed together standing amidst the cooling rubble of the 2017 fires- which came close to burning his childhood residence.
We’ve laughed and marveled at the talent and skill of our amazing thespians, dancers and musicians who let us into their lives at rehearsals for Ukiah Players Theater, Mendocino College, SPACE and the Professional Pianists Concerts.
Chris spent untold hours in the baking sun taking epic photos of cows, carnival rides and corn dog vendors at each and every County Fair, Redwood Empire Fair and Potter Valley Rodeo.
Whether it was the opening of the Ice Skating Rink, a Fire Awareness Event, fundraisers with Sheriff Allman, holiday pet photos at Rainbow Ag or the weigh-off at the Ukiah Pumpkinfest, Chris was there, camera at the ready- waiting, as legendary fellow photographer Peter Stearns once said, to “receive the photo, not capture it.” I can’t say how many stories Chris covered, but I’m sure my guestimate of thousands is probably low.
Regardless of whether he was on the clock or on vacation (a rarity), you never saw Chris without his backpack- always at the ready to document whatever was needed. He was often one of the first people to report an incident from the scanner to his Facebook following and would usually be on scene shortly thereafter. Chris was one of those guys who got in his vehicle in the middle of the night to bring you photos of harrowing accidents, fires, floods and disasters- always in the hope that by documenting these crises, someone else’s life might be saved in the future. Here’s an award- winning photo some of you may remember:
This photo, which in 2015 received First Place from the California Newspaper Publisher Association was taken by Chris at the moment a missing child was discovered by Mendocino County Search and Rescue. KC Meadows, UDJ editor said about the photo, “It’s a photo you don’t forget. As soon as I saw it I knew this was a winner.”
The other half of Chris’s skills began post-production, when he’d pull over to the side of the road and open up his computer to edit and format his photos for insertion into various media formats. The emotional toll it takes to cover these events is hard to describe, and we spent many hours in our own, personal debrief sessions- just trying to make sense of people, life and death.
Being a photographer isn’t Chris’s just a passion- it is his life’s work. In 2010, Chris founded the Ukiah Photography Club, which brought together a group of folks, from photo newbies to full-blown professionals, who gathered regularly to share, learn from and discuss everything photo-related. You may have seen them walking through town during our car shows, taking photos and socializing.
Chris is a patron of the arts, and some of our favorite stories we covered were the gallery exhibits at the Grace Hudson Museum, Mendocino College, and the Sun House. We were fortunate to be allowed into the private lives of the artists we interviewed- and Chris brought his skill and artist’s eye to the images he took of their work- capturing the visual magic to pair with my attempts to put their story to paper.
We were gratified to be a part of the lives of local students. Whether it was graduation, public performances, exhibits by the art or photography departments or projects by the physics students, Chris covered them all.
And then there are all the community causes we were so happy to support- NAMI. The Great Redwood Trail. The Ukiah Latitude Observatory. The Chili Cookoff for the Boys and Girls Club. The Youth Action Party. This list is practically endless, but what a joy it was to be a small part of helping others- and doing so would be impossible without Chris’s compelling images to go with my stories. A great deal of our time was spent helping other groups and individuals with no marketing department and no advertising budget. They depended on us to publicize their events to help them raise funds and boost ticket sales. It’s Chris’s photos that caught people’s eye and compelled them to read on and perhaps make a donation or provide support. We are particularly proud of the work we did promoting the UDJ’s annual Holiday Fund Drive for the Ukiah Community Food Bank- which in the five years Chris worked at the paper raised about $400,000 for the organization.
Being a photographer in a small community is not an easy way to make a living. The amount of gear required to be a “real” photographer is costly, and Chris is interested in all facets of the medium- black and white, developing his own photos, taking those amazing night shots of the Trucker’s Holiday Light Parade and getting those epic shots of the 747 dropping retardant on a fire-ravaged hillside. In a word, photography is expensive.
Like so many people, Chris was laid off due to the pandemic, and was fortunate to receive unemployment. This enabled him to take some time to work with two colleagues and friends to establish the Deep Valley Arts Collective- a non-profit organization for which Chris is the vice-president. The collective recently opened their gallery in the Pear Tree Shopping Center to rave reviews and an overwhelming number of submissions for their first public exhibit. And in keeping with Chris’s spirit of egalitarianism and support for artists, no gallery fees are charged to show one’s work. Chris and his board members are volunteering their time, money and sweat equity to help create a venue for the hundreds of local artists who have no other place to share their art with the community- which makes the burglary, occurring only a few footsteps from the gallery an even greater tragedy.
The theft couldn’t have happened at a worse time. As we know, unemployment funding is about to end. Chris is currently job-hunting but until that full-time gig comes along, he’s supporting himself by doing freelance photo and writing work. Chris has had a few exhibits locally and will continue to have more.
To continue working, Chris needs a computer and he needs to replace his camera equipment. For that reason, I am asking our community to pitch in so he is able to recoup the replacement costs of his gear. With even more assistance, we can help Chris buy time so he can continue developing the gallery while job hunting.
This process of asking for help is not easy for anyone, and Chris is no exception. But as his photos so clearly demonstrate, his outstanding service to the community far outweighs the funds he currently needs to get back on his feet. Please consider how much Chris has impacted your life, your friend’s and family’s lives and the health and betterment of our community. Thank you very much for your support and demonstration of kindness to my great friend and colleague.
Have the police followed up or searched through the homeless camp behind that store area? Perhaps the goods are still somewhere undamaged??