On yet another country road with his cameras in the backseat, Rick Evans drives. Through the speakers in his truck, The Lone Bellow band wails “You Never Need Nobody” in a crescendo so good and strong, that he hits repeat. Rick leans over the steering wheel for a glimpse of a cloudless sky where eagles swoop, then come to rest atop a tall tree.
“Photography has always been a passion, but it actually took a long time to get into it,” said Rick. “In high school, one of my best buddies, Frank Buckley, took photography and I’d watch him develop photos in the darkroom. I always wanted to do that.”
But for a while, Rick played alto saxophone throughout junior high and Atascadero High (Class of 1973), and again at Cuesta College. His father, Lloyd “Dick” Evans, who hailed from North Dakota, played guitar, bass, piano, and passed away in 1984. “He’s the reason I got into playing music,” said Rick.
In 1976, Rick played bass with The Blackberry Ridge Band, performing country, bluegrass, and rock at wedding receptions, private parties, and large dances in North County. He still plays gigs occasionally.
Rick worked an assortment of jobs like young adults do – the 76 Station, an electrician’s assistant, pest control operator, landscape maintenance, and at Atascadero News from 1979 to 1983, as an assistant pressman, “darkroom guy,” and paper deliverer.
“Lon Allan was the editor. Al Decker was a freelance photographer and kind of my mentor. My love for photo credits started then,” he grinned. In the early ‘80s, Rick began capturing images of things being built.
Today, evidence of Rick’s photojournalism is everywhere, and many recognize his work, from local newscasts to SLO County print media. His numerous Facebook pages reveal an affinity for all things historic – “I grew up in San Luis Obispo County,” “The Printery – The Masonic Temple,” “Atascadero Civic Center,” “The Wrestling Bacchantes,” “Another Rick Evans Photo,” and “Atascadero Historical Society / Colony Heritage Center.”
Somehow, Rick balanced his love for photography with a 23-year career as a custodian at San Gabriel Elementary School in Atascadero, where he retired in June.
“They were a great bunch of people,” said Rick. “They were like a second family to me.”
Rick’s mother Marie, a native of Minnesota, lived a long and fruitful life to age 98 with her son’s attentive assistance. He’s close to his only child, Savanah, 24. Thankfully, Marie was able to spend precious time with granddaughter Savanah and great-granddaughter, Millie, born last February, until Marie’s death last December.
“I wish for Savanah’s family good health, to be happy in life and to achieve what they want. Austin is a good husband and a good dad to Millie,” said Rick. “To have a daughter who could look up to you? It erases whatever mistakes I’ve made or whether people like me or not. I love her!” said Rick, with eyes welling.
“I want to be remembered as a happy-go-lucky guy with a sense of humor who pretty much liked everybody,” said Rick. “I hope Millie has a decent world to grow up in because we’re in strange times. Maybe we can treat people with respect in how they want to be treated. I hope she will be whatever she wants to be.”
Rick parks his truck, steps down onto gravel and grabs his camera. As if on cue, another eagle soars overhead, casting a quick shadow below. A country flyby seems a fitting tribute for the man used to capturing the lives of others through his lens. Those eagle eyes overhead acknowledge Rick’s presence just the same.