Snapping the photographer

If it's in Sequim, Bob "Coop" Cooper has snapped it.

For more than 16 years, he was staff photographer for the Museum and Arts Center, cataloging more than 2,000 images of its collection.

Cooper was the longest active volunteer until retiring from his duties earlier this summer.

"Bob was a MAC icon and performed an immeasurable service to MAC during his time here," said Katherine Vollenweider, MAC executive director.

During his MAC tenure, he started a three-year photography program at Sequim High School and a Sequim Peaks photography program, a mentorship program for seventh- and eighth-graders that lasted for 10 years.

"I taught them how to shoot, process film and make prints," he said.

"I still miss the old black-and-white era."

Capturing the Coop

Cooper, 78, spent 42 years in the military and as a teacher of surgical, forensic and scientific photography.

From 1963-1969, he was a stringer photographer at Ohio State University for Sports Illustrated.

Cooper shot all collegiate sports, including profiles of OSU football coach Woody Hayes, who was known for his anger with players and reporters.

"I was told I made him mad once, but I had no idea why."

To supplement his income, Cooper worked as an infrared photographer on pollution and diseases' impacts on crops.

His work has appeared in Scientific American, more than a handful of books and several scientific journals.

"I've got tons of photographs," Cooper said.

He's spent time this summer cleaning out boxes filled with thousands of photographs, camera equipment and his photography master's degree thesis from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

"Most of this stuff, I have no idea what I'd use it for now."

Camera victory

During World War II, Cooper worked for Paradise Seed Company selling seeds for victory gardens.

With that money, he bought his first camera, a plastic box camera with five rolls of film.

"I just took photos of whatever, point-and-shoot," he said.

As an Army combat engineer during the Korean War, he took thousands of slides.

"I get kind of tickled when people call themselves a photographer after taking a few point-and-shoot photos with a camera they just got," he said.

"I think of a photographer as someone who paid their dues."

Cooper uses Nikon cameras but says it is preference.

"Some people love Ford and others Chevy. I'm a Nikon man," he said.


Making the transition to digital photography late in his career initially frustrated Cooper.

He said he was dragged "kicking and screaming into the digital age" at the museum.

Scenic shots and landmarks are most popular to photographers in Sequim, but he prefers alleyways.

"You can find the neatest things in them," Cooper said.

"I found a few branches loaded with snails once."

If the action is in a lull, Cooper encourages resizing photographs.

"If you can't make it interesting, then blow it up," he said.

"Sometimes bigger is better."

Keeping your eyes open is another motto he lives by.

"I was told once by a Russian scientist that Americans are always looking up and not down," Cooper said.

"That's one thing I do is look around."

Snapping the future

Cooper fulfilled one of his life goals after moving to Sequim 17 years ago with his wife, Bonnie.

"I always wanted to work for a museum," he said.

But now he wants to spend more time with his wife and take more photos in Western Washington.

He volunteered an average of four days and 12-16 hours a week.

"I've met a lot of wonderful people through it," he said.

"One thing I'll always remember is receiving elk teeth as a thank you for taking photos."

Vollenweider said his time and work at the MAC were invaluable.

"I don't think anyone will ever replace Bob," she said.

"Years from now, historians will be grateful for the records he made of local events."

Vollenweider said she would be open to a new photographer covering community events and/or photographing items in the collection.

She can be reached at 681-2257, director@ or through www.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@

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