Anacleto Rapping, Los Angeles Times photographer and "my best friend for 30 years."
Oct 20, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Anacleto and I have been best friends over 30 years — mountain biking, skiing, hiking, climbing and raising our children. We worked together over 20 of those years as photographers at the L.A. Times.
On the front door of Anacleto’s locker next to mine to this very day is the following quote by Henry David Thoreau … “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sing the best.”
Anacleto encouraged ALL of us to use our talents. Photojournalism can be a very competitive, high-stress field, and photographers can be an insecure group yearning for validation. Not Anacleto — he was confident and always prepared.
Anacleto was a remarkable photographer in every way. He had a keen eye with attention to composition and detail. His images spoke volumes. We would talk about how great photographs are made when preparation meets opportunity. He loved the art of photography.
He saw beauty in everything and everyone. Every person he met felt valued. He gave every assignment his best and enjoyed the variety of things that news photographers shoot. He’d say, “What an incredible job we have — shooting Hollywood stars one day and food in the studio the next.” Anacleto reminded us that photography isn’t just about pointing a camera, composition and the click of the shutter. It’s about building a relationship of trust and respect with a person in very little time.
Covering the end of apartheid and the birth of democracy in South Africa had a profound effect on Anacleto. He reminisced about spending time with Nelson Mandela, who he quoted: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Anacleto was the “go to” photographer for celebrity portraits. He put the often demanding subjects at ease and made indelible portraits. Imagine the pressure of photographing the cast of “Ocean’s Eleven” — Hollywood superstars Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Don Cheadle, with whom he forged a friendship. I remember when Anacleto and I worked the red carpet of the Academy Awards, and Cheadle broke through the celebrity crowd to give him a big hug. People trusted him and warmed to his gentle and genuine caring nature.
Anacleto loved shooting outdoor adventure assignments. Rafting on the Colorado River, skiing and snow camping for days in the Sierra. Several Mt. Whitney climbs, and especially Yosemite, where his daughter Ariel and son-in-law Andy were married.
He covered the Alaskan Iditarod sled dog race from beginning to end in two weeks, sleeping in subzero temperatures, hopscotching the competitors with bush pilots and snow mobiles. He probably holds the record for most costly L.A. Times photo expense report to this day.
Anacleto loved shooting sports.
Covering the Summer and Winter Olympic Games around the World. L.A., Barcelona, Atlanta, Park City and Sydney. I think he shot every Rose Bowl game while he was at the Times.
A highlight for him was covering World Cup soccer. … Anacleto really loved soccer. His photo of Brandi Chastain’s winning kick that won the Women's World Cup is historic. She was immortalized in his photo. Many consider it the greatest moment in U.S. women's sports.
I remember the many years he coached Ariel’s AYSO soccer teams in Thousand Oaks. When we would talk about coaching soccer, I asked him, “Is there a secret to using the best players?” He replied. “It’s not about the best players — they know what to do. It’s about bringing out the best in every player.” … “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sing the best.”
Anacleto was always coaching, helping colleagues to learn new techniques, learn new technology, helping to motivate them to work at their best potential. Because he was a naturally gifted educator. … In the photo department at The Times, there is a tradition of giving nicknames. You had to earn it. Sometimes, it came many years later — as an epiphany. It defined your very being. “Educate us” was Anacleto’s nickname. He educated all of us. How to be a better photographer, a better humanitarian.
Anacleto left the L.A. Times over 10 years ago to teach at the Brooks Institute. He wasn’t unhappy at The Times. No layoffs or buyouts. He said: “I’ve done so much here. It’s time to share it now with the next generation.” He was ready to pay it forward. He was always true to his faith and convictions. He was ready to coach/teach the next generation to work to their best potential.
Our biking, skiing and climbing days were replaced with coffee at Peet’s, where we reminisced about how blessed we are to do what we love. He would say, “What do we leave behind?” Anacleto leaves behind stunning, memorable photographs that illustrate history, a loving family, a legacy of young gifted photographers and a relationship of love with all of us.
I will deeply miss my friend.
(Excerpts from a speech given by Al Seib during a memorial for Anacleto Rapping, 62, who passed away Sept. 17, 2017.)