For nearly 40 years, Californian Chief Photographer Felix Adamo has chronicled Kern County with an artist's eye through photographs capturing moments of tragedy, joy and stunning beauty.
After shooting thousands of court cases, community celebrations, sports events and candid moments of daily life in Bakersfield and beyond, Adamo, 65, retires from The Californian on Friday. He was hired in 1979.
Henry Barrios, another veteran Californian photographer and friend of Adamo, said his colleague has been one of the best in the business for decades — and still is.
"Felix has captured truthful moments and oftentimes beautiful images of Bakersfield, Kern County and other places he has traveled to cover stories," Barrios said. "In true photojournalistic style he reflects the community back to us, impacting the community with the images he captures."
Longtime columnist Robert Price said The Californian has always been blessed with gifted photographers, with Adamo chief among them.
"Felix has always been one of the centerpieces of that staff, and, really, for much of the past 40 years, its leader," Price said. "He has the discerning eye of a journalist and the aesthetic eye of an artist, and those gifts have benefited readers of The Californian for a very long time."
If art reflects life, then indeed Adamo has been part of the fabric of the organization.
He met his wife, Teresa Adamo, communication manager for Adventist Health Bakersfield, when she was an intern at the paper in the summer of 1989. They've been married 26 years.
She recalled their first meeting.
"The first time I met Felix was when another reporter and I ran into him at a sandwich shop downtown, and even though it was obvious Felix had just finished his lunch (his plate was empty!), he agreed to have lunch with us," she said. "That was also the very first time he took my photo, while I was standing in line to order my lunch."
Teresa Adamo said they went on to cover a wide variety of stories together and she gained a whole new appreciation for photojournalism because of him.
"I think Felix’s work represents a whole other level of the art form," she said. "I’ve often said that he sees things that no one else does — whether that’s a sliver of golden light, an interesting texture, contrast, shadow, etc. The result is a powerful image that tells a story and captures a moment of beauty."
"He is also the most ethical person I know. He’s responsible, hard-working and has such a high standard for his work and the way he lives his life. I admire him for that and so much more."
Adamo has seen the profession change over the years.
"The one thing about being a newspaper photographer for 39 years are the changes you are part of," he said. "In fact, about the only part of newspaper photography I missed out on was the days of the 4x5 Speed Graphic cameras, like the ones you see in old gangster movies."
Adamo has won numerous awards in his four-decade career. In 2018, he picked up two first-place awards at the 30th annual George F. Gruner Awards, which recognizes great print journalism in the San Joaquin Valley.
One was for best news photo for a chilling courtroom photo in which convicted murderer Jaime Osuna smiled and waved at his sentencing to the family of Yvette Pena, the woman he killed.
Adamo's other win depicted Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunner center Fallou Ndoye getting a slam to put CSUB up 25-12 over New Mexico State in the first half play of the WAC Championship basketball game.
He also was a finalist for best news photo at the California News Publishers Association as part of its 2017 California Journalism Awards for his photo of Osuna.
In 2012, Adamo took a 23-day trip with brothers Jorge and Julio Gonzales and Ryan Smith of Bakersfield, who, after having a casual discussion about places named Bakersfield decided to go see those other places: Bakersfield, Texas; Bakersfield, Mo.; Bakersfield, Vt.; and Bakersfield OTR (Over the Rhine), a restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He published 94 photos from the 6,542-mile trip in a full-color softcover book titled "Bakersfield to Bakersfield."
Adamo's work has been shown dozens of times over the years both in solo and group exhibits.
"Felix is the master at capturing life's emotion through his craft," said Jim Lawitz, TBC vice president and editor. "His contributions to Kern County journalism will be missed."