John Running receives the Viola Legacy Award in 2011

John Running, prolific and prominent photographer who made Flagstaff his home, died Sunday from brain cancer. He was 78 years old.

Running was one of the first recipients of the Viola Legacy Award, a honor recognizing an individual for lifetime achievement and contributions to the arts in Flagstaff. He received the Viola Legacy Award at the Viola Awards Gala in March 2011.

John Running has contributed much to the Flagstaff art scene. His ability to capture the people of the world on film with such poetry along with the rare opportunities and resulting documentation of the Native Peoples of our region performing their sacred ceremonies and dances is just part of his photographic legacy. He was a mentor to many young photographers helping them become professional photographers and find their vision.

Running created the Flagstaff Photography Center (FPC) in memory of his late partner/photographer Sue Bennett. Over the years, FPC hosted many exhibits of photography each year, and conducted portfolio reviews for emerging artists which gave them a show each year and helped them hone their skills. He was one of the founding members of Knights of the Light Table, a critique group for professional photographers.

In spring 2010, Running spearheaded a Colorado River expedition of writers, musicians and artists journeying down the river to make work and talk about making work. The film Chasing the Light by Cinematographer Ed George (who will be the recipient of the 2018 Viola Legacy Award) chronicled this epic journey. An exhibit by the same name was held at the Flagstaff Photography Center showcasing the work created on the trip, by all of the artists and writers on the trip.

Running was a US Marine and his education was mostly in Geology and Anthropology. He did air-photo interpretation for the Apollo programs for the US Geological Survey, and in the late 70’s started working freelance making a series of educational films, with over 50 films to his credit.

There are many books of John Running photographs that have been published over the years. Among them is the award winning book Honor Dance with photographs of American Indians in their traditional costumes performing their traditional dances.

“I feel blessed that I was able to make a living and do this for 45 years,” Running said. “It’s the ability to still be amazed when you look through the viewfinder, and I think that is one of the gifts of being a photographer. You can go out there and look for things that delight your eye, and I’m still finding them. I’m still finding things that I’ve never made a picture of before, and I’m in awe of it. I can’t imagine not taking pictures.”

Recently, Running’s photographs were exhibited at Cline Library at Northern Arizona University, where his collection is archived. The exhibition was titled Offerings to the Gods of Light and Shadow.

KNAU’s story about John Running’s death >

Artist Shonto Begay with Running at the Viola Awards