Houston Photographer Dave Einsel Has Passed

by | Aug 28, 2023 | News

ASMP Editor: Dave Einsel was a former President of the ASMP Houston chapter.

Houston-based ASMP Member Robert Seale has shared the following Facebook tribute post to his friend, mentor, and colleague Dave Einsel…

“WHO SHOT THAT PIECE OF SH**?!”… came the booming voice from over my shoulder in the Chronicle photo department. It was the summer of 1992, and I was editing my photos from an Astros game on the “Photovix” – a 20th century device that converted raw negatives into a positive image on a TV screen. The voice came from the great Dave Einsel…a tall, intimidating figure who, during my internship, only occasionally was in town long enough to dish out such high praise. This sort of sarcasm was actually a great compliment in those days. Back then, the Chronicle had big budgets, and Dave was their star globe-trotting photojournalist…always on the road, always working on a big project in some exotic locale with their best project reporters. The Chronicle was in hot pursuit of an elusive Pulitzer, and Dave did big special sections that looked like something out of National Geographic. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

When he wasn’t working on these big stories, he was traveling to Oilers, Rockets, Astros games – transmitting on deadline and bringing back the goods. His manual focus skills were legendary. I once went through his film after an Oilers home game, shot in the Dome under very marginal conditions. Picture 36 frames of a running back stampeding towards the camera into the end zone, and every frame was absolutely tack sharp. Dave’s dad was an Air Force pilot, and Dave supposedly had 20/15 vision. We used to joke that Nikon should advertise the “Nikon DE Series lenses” for sports…they would come in a 6’3” hard case with Einsel inside to operate the lens for you.

Dave was a Hearst Eagle Award winner (a huge deal within the newspaper world), and won awards from the NFL Hall of Fame, National Headliners, APME, and a number of other accolades. Those big projects he worked on were twice nominated as Pulitzer Finalists. Dave expected excellence, and didn’t understand tooting your own horn for doing your job.

When Dave became the “Tie Man”, (the DOP) at the Chronicle, we didn’t hang out quite as much. I was traveling, and he was busy with the headaches of running the photo department.

When Dave left the Chronicle in 2004, I was on the verge of leaving The Sporting News and we became lunch buddies. We probably went to lunch 2-3 times a week, and I’m pretty sure we kept JAX grill on Shepherd in business for a few years. We talked about freelancing, running our own businesses, critiqued the paper (of course), and generally tried to solve the world’s problems. If we met for lunch around Christmas, we would exchange bottles of bourbon…some years we bought each other the same exact brand. Dave liked Manhattans and taught me how to make them. He also introduced me to gumbo at Prejean’s in Lafayette, great grilled steaks, and quite possibly the best German potato salad I’ve ever had in my life.

Dave had a taste for nice stuff: nice guitars, superb audio equipment, fancy cameras (he was the only guy (except for a few doctors?) in town with 2 full sets of Leica gear: the R stuff and the M bodies and lenses. He liked Hasselblads and helped me outfit my first one with accessories. Need an Imacon scanner? He had one. Need an esoteric piece of woodworking gear and instructions on how to use it perfectly? He was your guy. He had fantastic taste in music, and probably the largest CD collection I had ever seen. He collected photo books, and taught me how to look for the rare signed copies in used bookstores while traveling around the country. We talked W. Eugene Smith, Eddie Adams, Philip Jones Griffiths, Nachtwey, as well as Avedon, Bailey, Penn, Newton, Guy Bourdin and Albert Watson. Dave was the only one who would understand.

During that first year after he left the Chronicle, I often talked him into assisting me on shoots. It was great to have a friend in the car on long drives and our conversations were always stimulating. One day, we got sent to Baton Rouge to shoot a bunch of rappers. It was a surreal scene: 2 middle aged white dudes, surrounded by several 20-something diamond-grilled rappers and their entourages, more heavily armed than the Taliban, flashing wads of cash to the camera, amid a thick fog of weed smoke. It was only 10 in the morning. Dave was unfazed…he laid down in the floorboard of the rapper’s fancy car with a strobe and put the perfect shine on his bling…after all, I promised him gumbo in Lafayette, so it was a great day.

A few years later, Dave got hired full time at HISD, and our lunches became more infrequent. We still got together and I would chastise him for not taking Kim on a real vacation. They spent virtually every vacation volunteering at Camp Periwinkle photographing kids with cancer or HIV.

He also volunteered and taught at the Eddie Adams Workshop for several years.

Dave was a bit of a curmudgeon, but often a cuddly one, if you got to know him well. He was my mentor, my colleague, my dear friend…

I am going to miss him so much.