Rich Clarkson: a photography legend shares his shocking battle with an exploitative conservatorship

You may not have heard of Rich Clarkson–not unless you follow the world of photojournalism.

But if you do, you know Clarkson is an icon.

At 86 years of age, he’s accomplished things most photographers can only dream of: he was the head of photography for The Topeka Capital-Journal, the president of the National Press Photographers Association, photographed over 30 covers of Sports Illustrated Magazine, founded his own multimedia company, and most notably was the director of photography for a little ol’ publication called National Geographic Magazine.

Clarkson is considered one of the godfathers of modern sports photojournalism.  His work in the field not only earned him a slew of prestigious awards and honors from both the press and sports worlds, but also helped to mold several future photography leaders working underneath him during his time at The Topeka.

Staff he mentored went on to hold enviable positions at NatGeo, Life, and The Washington Post, become official White House photographers, and even win the Pulitzer Prize.

Rich Clarkson is a pioneer.  And even in his senior years, he still just wants to spend his time doing what he loves.

When asked what his goals are for the remainder of his life, he says he just wants access to his equipment to build a retrospective of his work.  He intends to leave it and the negatives with those who will make sure his work is preserved and shared with the world long after he’s gone.

But he can’t do that. He no longer has access to his equipment or his workspace.

Clarkson says this from a sofa–his sofa from his home–in an apartment he hates.  The sofa, along with other furniture and several of his personal belongings, were removed from his house and shipped to the apartment without his knowledge or consent.

Clarkson himself was placed in the residence without his knowledge or consent.  After what seemed to be a routine medical interview, a state-appointed conservator showed up and brought Clarkson to the facility under the impression he was simply being shown an apartment to consider.

In truth, the medical interview was manipulated if not totally falsified and used by the conservator to have Clarkson declared incompetent.  He wasn’t there to consider an apartment–the conservator had already gained possession of his things, had them moved to the new residence, and lied to Clarkson to get him there.

Clarkson wasn’t visiting.  He already lived there.  Court-ordered. Court-approved.

Having no relatives, Clarkson attempted to reach out to his staff and colleagues for help.  He quickly found the conservator also had these people completely barred from contacting him.

So now, Rich Clarkson, a man with more awards than he has wall space in his den, is legally trapped in a tiny, half-empty apartment and cut off from those closest to him.

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