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Joyce Dopkeen 1


Good Ghosts—Rochelle Mourns Two Friends

Good Ghosts — Rochelle Mourns Two Friends

Joyce Dopkeen was my neighbor, friend and the first female photographer for The New York Times. She died this past year.

She was small but fearless, especially while capturing stories with her camera. There were big, front page stories, from Muhammad Ali fighting off Joe Frazier, to intimate portraits of female prison inmates training puppies to be service dogs. Understanding that an image is frozen in time, she said in The Times, It’s one thing if a reporter misses a quote; they can get another from someone else, but if a photographer misses it, that’s all she wrote.”

Joyce had been called a badass,” a reputation she lived up to at the paper. She barreled through crowds of taller, stronger people and hung off ledges to find the perfect picture moments. One day a letter came to Punch Sulzberger, Publisher of The New York Times, complaining of Joyce’s pushiness. He sent the letter to her and in the corner of it, handwritten by him, were the words, Keep doing what you are doing.”

Our Joyce loved trees, especially her view of the almost century old tree in front of our house. The tree began to pose a safety issue to the neighborhood — its roots lifting sidewalks and its branches threatening power lines. But every time the village inspectors came through to check for vulnerabilities, you’d find Joyce wrapped around the tree and then the tree was given clemency.

I am not sure where her love of trees came from. Was it tree of something: life, learning, connection? Maybe, tree as climate-changer, protector of our planet. Or did Joyce identify with the tree’s strength and ability to stand tall?

This July 24, the village had to finally take down the tree. We mourn them both.