Remembering John Gaps III

Kenneth Jarecke
10 min readNov 23, 2022

Gone too soon.

John in 1985 at a Kansas City Royals game (I believe). Kenneth Jarecke / Contact Press Images

John Gaps III passed away on October 17th of this year. He was 63 years old.

John was a photojournalist, a good one to be sure, who was known for taking chances and being outspoken.

If your goal is to make good pictures of people acting naturally and ignoring the camera, there are two ways to get there. You can try to be a fly on the wall and hope to go unnoticed, or you could be loud, and let everyone know you’ve arrived. Maybe knock over a lamp for good measure. The idea being that once the waves settled from the splash you’ve made, the act of making pictures would go relatively ignored.

John loved to make a big splash.

One time, in the hope of getting a better angle on Hillary Clinton, he made one in the reflecting pool outside of the Taj Mahal. He got the angle, fried a couple of cameras and spent a long flight back to the States on her plane in damp clothes.

That’s how John rolled. Anything for the picture, and if a good story came along with it, all the better.

A note from John’s family reads (in part):

“Our father’s death came as a shock to us. His best years behind him, John’s final years saw him struggling deeply with addiction, PTSD, and complicated relationships. Left with few end of life plans and little money, we have done our best to honor him faithfully and in a way that reflects his unique spirit.”

John struggled. Not only would he be the first to admit it, he often did just that. From what I could see, he never tried to hide his problems.

I must have been eighteen when I first met John. I was attending The University of Nebraska at Omaha and hanging around the darkrooms of the Omaha World-Herald. I knew nothing about photography or journalism. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to make a living doing it. John arrived on the scene, as the new hire from Iowa State, who had not yet graduated. He was twenty-two, already a “name”, married, seemingly grownup and with knowledge and knowhow that he generously shared.

We quickly became friends. He mentored me, and in return I listened to his stories. I wanted to learn and he enjoyed talking, so we were a good match.

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Kenneth Jarecke

I'm a husband, dad, photographer, a writer (sort of), an occasional rancher and the Founder of The Curious Society. https://www.curious-society.org