Marc H. Blau Meritorious Service Award

Clarence Seman - Pierce County's Sports Photographer from 1949 to 1990

In 1939, at the age of 14, Clarence Seman strolled into the Rexall Drug store in Great Falls, Montana, and made a purchase. That purchase that would mark the start of his interest in photography and would lead him to many years of enjoyment and involvement in that field. Clarence acquired his first camera that day, a brand new shiny Brownie model at a cost of $3.95. It was quite an investment in that day, particularly for a 14 year old. But, after arranging a "50 cents a week installment plan" with the storeowner, he was off and running into the world of photography.

In 1943, Clarence's family moved to Tacoma, and in 1944 he graduated from Lincoln High School. A few years later he had landed a full-time job with the Johnson Paint Co. It was while at Johnson that a co-worker introduced him to Tom Cross, Pierce County's first Parks and Recreation director. Tom asked Clarence if he'd be interested in taking sports pictures for the park district. The rest is history.

For the next 40-plus years, Clarence would take all of Pierce County's athletic pictures for youth baseball, football, basketball, swimming, track and more. He also covered the Tacoma Athletic Commission's activities and events. "Whatever Tom would ask me to do, wherever he would ask me to go, I'd be there," remarked Seman in a recent interview. His travels took him everywhere from area sports fields, gyms and soapbox derby hills to photo shoots with the likes of Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and others. His work was award winning and received national recognition, prompting columnist Bernie Brotman to write, "Clarence Seman is fast becoming the top sports photographer in town."

Through the years, times changed and so did camera equipment. Clarence followed the evolution of cameras all the way from that 1939 "drug store Brownie" to the digital era when he purchased one of the first digitals available, a Sony model that he still uses to this day in his retirement. Seman retired from the Park District in 1990 and still lives in Tacoma with his wife of 55 years, Louise. They raised five children and all, to some degree, have caught the same "photography bug" that he did back on that day in Great Falls.

When asked what some of his fondest memories were, Clarence said, "Taking pictures of the kids and then years later, pictures of their kids!" He also recalled the many nights that he'd be up until 2 or 3 a.m. developing pictures in his home dark room. Because, he was asked, you just could not get enough of the rewarding world of photography that you loved?

"No, because I'm a procrastinator!"