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Thursday, Mar 21, 2019
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Photographer whose shots included both famous and ordinary folk dies at 74

Bud Lee photographed the likes of Clint Eastwood, Mick Jagger and Jane Russell in a career that spanned four decades.

He liked celebrity photo shoots, but he was just as happy traveling America and focusing his camera on ordinary people doing ordinary things, his daughter, Charlotte Lee, said.

“He felt that everyone had a story to tell,” she said. “He liked taking photos of everyday life.”

Lee died early Thursday at a Plant City nursing home, 12 years after a stroke left him partially paralyzed. He was 74.

Friends and family on Thursday remembered his life work, from his coverage of riots in the 1960s to the spark he brought to the Tampa art scene.

“He’s the one who taught me you don’t need a lot of money, you need a lot of ideas,” said David Audet, a Tampa photographer who with Lee and others founded the Artists and Writers Ball.

Audet was a University of South Florida photo and film student when he met Lee in 1978. The two became friends, and he always found Lee a source of inspiration.

Lee championed the arts, Audet said.

“He felt that everyone was creative in their own way. People would tell him they weren’t artists and couldn’t do that but he would encourage them to try anyway. He said it wasn’t important if you were good or bad. It was important that you tried,” he said.

Lee’s love for photography started during a two-year hitch in the Army, and in 1966 he was named U.S. military photographer of the year, Charlotte Lee said.

He left the Army the same year, and his career soared as he landed assignment after assignment with Life magazine, Rolling Stone and other publications. She said his passion and drive led to his success.

“He told us to seize the moment and be fearless. He said it’s better to not ask for permission, but to go ahead and do it and beg for forgiveness later,” she said.

He traveled the world, and had a knack for coaxing his subjects into poses that would make the best possible shot, Lee said.

“He didn’t care if you were a celebrity or homeless, he would get you to do things you would never dream of doing,” she said. “He once got Al Green, the singer, to take his clothes off in the middle of an Arkansas cotton field” for an album cover.

He moved to the Tampa area in the 1970s when he got a job as an artist in the schools. He met his future wife, Peggy, at Plant City’s Marshall Middle School, where she was an art teacher.

The couple had four children in their 38-year marriage: Charlotte, 34, who lives in Atlanta; 37-year-old twins Steckley of Plant City and Parker of New Haven, Conn.; and Thomas, 38, of Carrboro, N.C. Other survivors included his sisters, Elsie and Linda, both of Scarsdale, N.Y.

A service in Lee’s memory will be July 11 at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, 400 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa. The family will receive friends at 5 p.m. and the service will be at 6 p.m.

Charlotte Lee said their father drew his family close.

“When someone would ask him what was his best creation, he would say it was the four of us,” she said. “He taught us so much, and we’re all going to miss him.”

Twitter: @dnicholsonTBO

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