CLASS OF 2019: Photographer John Hart to be inducted into NU Athletics Hall of Fame
If you played high school sports in Nevada County and your picture ended up in The Union newspaper, there’s a good chance John Hart took that photo.
For nearly 50 years, Hart roamed the sidelines of local football fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts and pretty much any athletic arena in the region, capturing the action through his lens.
Over the years, many of the athletes who graced The Union sports pages have thanked Hart for his efforts in not only photographing their glory days, but also those of their children and grandchildren. While Hart appreciates the acknowledgment, he’d be the first one to tell you, he’s just doing his job.
“I just went out there and did my job,” Hart said. “I did the best job I could do.”
Hart is a 1964 Nevada Union graduate, but never played sports for the Miners. His contributions to the school, and community as a whole, came as a documentarian of the ups and downs of NU sports. He’s been there for league and section championships, record-breaking performances, heartbreaking losses and everything in between.
For his efforts as a photo journalist covering the Miners, John Hart is being inducted into the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday.
“It feels good to be recognized,” Hart said. “I enjoyed what I did on the field and in the gym, taking photos of the kids.”
Hart’s award-winning career as a full-time photographer for The Union began around 1970, but he had been working at his hometown news outlet even before as a paper boy, as well as several other positions.
“When I was in high school, especially in the summer time, I would always go down to The Union office because I was bored at home, and I learned how to do different jobs there,” Hart recalled. “I got to know Pat Ryan, who was a photographer there, and I went to assignments with him. He didn’t like to go do football, so I would end up shooting Nevada Union football at the fairgrounds. I used flash bulbs. I would go shoot the games, develop my film Friday night because we had a Saturday afternoon paper, and that’s how it started.”
What followed was nearly five decades of chronicling the happenings of Nevada County, which included a vibrant and thriving sports scene at Nevada Union.
Hart said he enjoyed it all, but some of his favorite moments were the championship games for football and volleyball.
“I’m really excited that he’s being honored by Nevada Union,” said The Union Editor Brian Hamilton, who worked with Hart for more than a decade. “To think of the number of teams and championships, and even losses, that he covered. The highs and the lows. He’s been there through all of that.”
CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
Making Hart’s longevity even more impressive is his ability to adapt to changing technology over the years.
“I learned from the college of hard knocks,” said Hart, noting that he didn’t have any formal training and relied a lot on trial and error. “My first six months at The Union was a disaster.”
Hart would attend conventions and talk with other photographers, and over time honed his skills behind the lens.
“The thing that’s really crazy to think about is when John started here, he was working at The Union when they were using the hot lead in the type face for every individual character,” said Hamilton. “He’s gone from that, all the way through learning to develop film and all the way through the 2000s when we went digital (with photography). He had to learn all that technology, and it’s pretty impressive how he grasped that.”
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Hart’s dedication to his craft also came with some bumps and bruises along the way. He’s been hit by foul balls, been run over by football players and had errant basketballs leave him with black eyes.
But, through it all, Hart always got the shot and had it filed by deadline.
Hamilton said Hart’s experience, knowledge and understanding of the community has been invaluable to The Union.
“Institutional knowledge is not easily obtained and kept at a small paper like this,” Hamilton said. “You can call up John and ask him about any news event from the last 50 years and he at least will have an idea what you’re talking about or can point you to someone who would know more about it.”
In addition to Nevada County sports, Hart has photographed the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Sacramento Kings as well as other pro and college sports teams during his career, but will always be best known and revered for his work covering the news, sports and general happenings in Nevada County.
Hart is retired now, but is still happy to help out and photograph a game or event when called upon. He lives in Grass Valley with his wife, Pat.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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