Long-serving San Diego Photographer Charlie Sick Dies at 88

By: E&P Staff

Charlie Sick, photographer and later photo director at The San Diego Union-Tribune since the 1940s, died June 11. He was 88.

Sick’s award-winning news photography career began in the days of big black-and-white negatives and followed the growth of San Diego. His Union-Tribune obituary describes Sick as “quiet, humble and even-tempered,” and allowing his staff “the freedom to do their best work.

“Everybody respected him greatly. He was a very effective leader,” retired photo lab manager Phil McMahan told Union-Tribune staff writer Blanca Gonzalez. She quoted former staff photographer Jerry Rife saying Sick “saw his job as fostering creativity rather than imposing a bunch of rules.”

Upon his 1987 retirement, Sick was the newspaper’s longest-serving employee. He started as a circulation clerk in 1939 and became a copy boy before joining the Army Air Corps during World War II (he would be recalled to active duty as a pilot in the Korean War). Upon returning to San Diego, he trained as a photographer because there no copy clerk openings. He had taken photography courses at night school.

“We’ll come to the point where we will take … pictures electronically,” he told the Union-Tribune the year he retired. “Editors will be able to call the pictures up on a screen and make their choice.”

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