Most of the photographs anchoring the pages of the Sedona Red Rock News are shot by Tom Hood, one of Larson Newspapers’ two full-time photojournalists.
After working 13 years for a Prescott area newspaper, Hood spent six years shooting for the Associated Press, a collective of more than 1,700 media outlets, newspapers and radio stations. He joined the Sedona Red Rock News in January.
Hood has built an impressive resume — he photographed President George W. Bush and Massachusetts Sen. and 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry for a presidential debate in Phoenix and worked Super Bowl XLII capturing the New York Giants’ upset victory over the New England Patriots.
However, Hood describes himself as “a small-town kind of guy,” who prefers working with a close-knit community.
Born in Reading, Pa., in 1963, Hood moved to Geneva, Ill., at age 16. He graduated high school in 1982 and attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Hood moved to Arizona in 1987 looking for a job in radio. Having experience in print journalism, he took a position with the Prescott Courier in the production department. In 1989, a photojournalist position opened and management asked Hood to take it.
“I developed an eye really quickly. It was kind of natural for me,” Hood said. “In photo, you learn from other people’s stuff. In your down time, you look at other people’s photos and see what they’re doing.”
Hood and his ex-wife welcomed twin sons Jonathan and Tyler in 1996. His daughter Sarah was born in 1999.
Hood left the Prescott Courier in 2002 to pursue teaching. However, he said he missed photography almost immediately.
Shortly afterward, Hood received a letter from the Associated Press, with whom he had done some freelance work. The letter wished Hood well and asked if he would consider freelancing out of the Phoenix bureau.
“Once you start freelancing, all sorts of doors open,” Hood said.
Hood was soon busy with a full slate of photo assignments. He covered politicians and sports teams, traveled as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ team photographer and annually spent every day in March shooting Major League Baseball’s spring training.
He had multiple one-on-one photo shoots with U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] and shot a famous photograph of former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi
[R-District 1] celebrating an election victory with his father, Gen. Eugene Renzi, shortly before the latter’s death.
Along the Arizona-Mexico border, Hood photographed members of the Minutemen Project and flew in a Black Hawk helicopter with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary James M. Loy.
But Hood’s small-town sensibility became clear in 2003, when the AP sent Hood to Tuba City to cover the funeral of U.S. Army Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa.
Piestewa was severely injured when her convoy was ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Piestewa, two other female and four male soldiers were taken prisoner by insurgents, but she died of her wounds soon after.
In Tuba City, Hood approached Piestewa’s family and in conversation asked permission to shoot photos. An uncle told Hood to come back in a few hours. When he did, the neighborhood was surrounded by national media, but Hood alone was taken inside by the family.
Hood’s intimate and exclusive photos of Piestewa’s family in mourning were published in hundreds of publications nationwide.
“Knowing how to build that relationship comes from years of working in a small town,” Hood said.
Hood said he reshuffled his priorities after his father, mother and stepfather all died in a short period in 2007.
“The death of my parents and stepfather set me back,” Hood said.
Part of that change included moving to the Verde Valley to spend more time with his three children.
“My kids are my No. 1. There’s only a few years you really get to be with them,” Hood said. “This is a crucial time to have a family around.”