‘Brush with Fame’ a photographer’s lens-based journey 

  • Boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard in North Palm Beach, Fla. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/PAUL RICH

  • Angela Davis, a former vice presidential candidate of the Communist Party of the United States of America, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/PAUL RICH

  • Franklin County photographer Paul Rich has published “Brush with Fame,” a book of his work. Clockwise, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, comedian George Carlin, U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm (the first Black woman elected to Congress), and Angela Davis, a previous vice-presidential candidate for the Communist Party of the United States of America. A book signing is slated for Baker Office Supply at 310 Main St. from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. SCANNED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/22/2021 2:59:37 PM

Paul M. Rich is a former bootlegger, U.S. Army veteran, Windham College graduate, former teacher and former high school golf coach. But it is his work as a photographer that tells the real story about who he is and where he’s been.

The Greenfield native has captured images of boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, comedian George Carlin and music legends B.B. King and Patti LaBelle in addition to locals at the Franklin County Fair and West Palm Beach, Fla. His lens-based journey is chronicled in his new book, “Brush with Fame,” published in July. A book signing is slated for Baker Office Supply at 310 Main St. from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

“The photos in the book have not been seen by the public in, like, 40 years,” Rich told the Greenfield Recorder. “I like to say, ‘I photograph all ages and all wages.’ Everyone has a biography.”

A 30-minute film of his work premiered on Greenfield Community Television (GCTV) on Monday night. The film is also called “Brush with Fame.”

Rich has photographed the likes of journalist Tom Brokaw at Greenfield High School, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, musician Bo Diddley at the Springfield Civic Center (now the MassMutual Center), actor James Earl Jones in Medford, clowns in Boynton Beach, Fla., and rock stars Billy Idol and George Thorogood at The Rusty Nail in Sunderland. Rich credits his accomplishments to visual awareness and being in the right place at the right time.

“I can’t really explain what drove my ambition to become an acknowledged photographer,” he wrote in his book’s introduction, “but I knew I was documenting something of importance.”

Rich writes he began a life of rebellion and trying to speak truth to power when he was 5, and his mother enrolled him in the Roberts School in Shelburne — he ran away “fighting the injustice of their punitive rule that if you didn’t eat your vegetables, you were denied riding the ponies and were relegated to the nap room.” He was heartbroken when his hero, actor James Dean, died in a car crash, but his film “Rebel Without a Cause” inspired him to protest authority. When he was 15, he received probation for selling bottles of Canadian whiskey to his friends on Halloween.

He graduated from Windham College (now Landmark College) in Putney, Vt., before he was drafted into the Army for the Vietnam War, serving a one-year tour of duty. It was in the coastal city Nha Trang that he purchased his first camera —  a miniature Minolta 16 — and began to experiment with aerial photography and photographing Buddhist monks. He used veterans benefits like the GI Bill to earn his teaching certificate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He then worked as a teacher for 12 years (as well as a golf coach for seven), educating students on American government and geography.

Following his teaching career, Rich attended the Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, and later studied international terrorism at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and participated in a teacher exchange program in Trollhättan, Sweden.

“Brush with Fame” is available on Amazon and at paulmrichphotography.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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