Brilliance, passion with camera Free Press photojournalist was a gifted storyteller, a kind, generous mentor


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/11/2021 (562 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Joe Bryksa was a photojournalist in the truest sense.

Joe Bryksa, Sept. 11, 1966 - Nov. 2, 2021

In reflection after reflection about Joe since his sudden death last week I was reminded of the impact he’s had on so many people, including the readers of the Free Press.

Joe started at the paper in 1994 after working his way up through the local community papers and the Winnipeg Sun.

His talent was hard to miss. He was always in the action. He got close to it, evident by the many hands-in-lens, get-out-of-my-face news photos he captured over the years.

Daren Jorgenson, then owner and pharmasist of Selkirk Arbor Drugs, did not want to get his picture taken by Joe in 1998.

But he could also step back and let the beauty of a story unfold in front of him.

In a series of tweets last week, Free Press writer Melissa Martin reflected on her many assignments with Joe and how his photos would tell their own story alongside whatever her words could. He was a master at telling a story; his telling was unique.

He was also my mentor, taking a keen young photographer on numerous weekend ridealongs and showing me the ropes.

I was fresh out of art school and wide-eyed to share stories from my own backyard. We got along instantly and I was lucky to witness Joe in action. He was assertive when he needed to be and sensitive when the story called for an empathetic touch.

I absorbed every second.

He was instrumental in getting my foot in the door with the Free Press after journalism school and helped me gain freelance work and, later, a part-time position.

He was in my corner as I applied for the editor position after our boss, Jon Thordarson, died of cancer in 2010. I would not be where I am today without Joe.

While looking through tens of thousands of his images shot for the Free Press over the last few days, it was clear his impact on the readers is undeniable.

He was at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan in 2008 and teamed with writers for stories from every corner of the province. He covered Grey Cups and both the loss and return of the NHL Jets.

His work in the No Running Water series, which he pitched, saw him take multiple trips to six northern First Nations over seven months in 2010 to document Manitobans struggling with poor water and sewage services.

A child runs past a makeshift toilet in elder Moyer Taylor's porch on Garden Hill, First Nation in July 2010. Thousands of Manitoba residents, an hour’s flight from Winnipeg, have no running water in their homes, putting them at increased risk for a host of health problems usually associated with the world’s poorest countries.

The series is still being shown in schools today.

His list of accolades runs long and includes awards from the News Photographers Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Journalists and the National Newspaper Awards.

Joe believed a photographer didn’t need to leave Winnipeg and join a big wire service to be recognized as an accomplished photojournalist. The Canadian Press tried to pull him over, but he wouldn’t budge.

If he had gone, we would have missed his lighter side, which included a 30-day challenge for him to photograph a goose every day. Or his skill — some might say obsession — with photographing squirrels in mid-flight. I once called these projects “quirky,” which didn’t sit well with him. I got the piercing glare, and part smirk, that only those that knew Joe could understand.

JOE BRYKSA / FREE PRESS FILESDoug is alarmed by the growing menace posed to our planet by rogue bands of extremist squirrels.

Joe could do it all, and he did it all with equal passion.

So while he is gone, his work remains, thanks to that passion to tell our stories.

Thank you, Joe.

Mike Aporius is Director of Photography/Multimedia at the Free Press

A Save the Jets Rally in 1995 at The Forks attracted thousands of NHL hockey fans.
Inmates at the Remand Center in downtown Winnipeg bang on windows, as correction officers walked off the job in 1996. A riot the weekend before at Headingley Correctional Centre forced the guards to file unsafe labour complaints, giving them the legal right to not work until an investigation was completed.
A family attends an open house at a nudist camp near Libau, Man., in 1997.
A gang member wanted by police shows an officer he is not armed -- revealing a huge gang tattoo -- before being taken into custody in 1997.
Members of Calgary's 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battle 80 km/hour winds to push logs and sandbags to create a breakwater to help protect the town of St. Jean Baptise's dike from rising floodwaters in 1997.
Leonard White helped expose in the Free Press in 1995 that some doctors and pharmacists were handing out prescription pills by the handful to unhoused people on the Main Street strip and billing the federal government. 
A suspect sends a message to photographers after being arrested by a joint task force between RCMP, Winnipeg Police Serves and Canada Customs in 1999.
In April 2001, steel workers Ken Olsen (bottom), Doug Jones, (centre), and Jeff Trudel prepare scaffolding around the Golden Boy atop the Manitoba Legislature.
Actor and comedian Robin Williams wears a box on his head to joke around with photographers during a break while shooting the movie The Big White in 2004.
Near Letellier, Man., gusty winds in the winter of 2004 caused near white-out conditions for highway travelers and made this tree appear to be the only thing around for miles.
In 2007, Winnipeg Blue Bomber star slotback Milt Stegall scores his 138th touchdown, breaking the CFL all-time leading touchdown scoring record set by George Reed and Mike Pringle.
An Afghanistan National Army member grimaces as he fires a Russian-made 122-mm howitzer D-30 artillery gun during training by the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team at a forward operating base in the Panjwayi District of Afghanistan in 2008.
Sudanese immigrant Open Obeing and his family struggle to find housing for the nine members during a rental crisis in 2008. 
Faron Hall cries while describing trying to rescue drowning victim Chris Harper in 2009. Hall was able to save Harper's girlfriend, Tara Lynn Beardy, from the Red River.
Winnipeg police cadets restrain two men from a tow truck after they burst through police lines at the scene of a double fatal motor vehicle crash involving another tow truck on Dugald Road near Plessis Road.
Joe cheekily captioned this photo 'Dying for lunch' after he caught this hearse in a fast food restaurant drive-thru in 2012.
One of the photos Joe took during his goose-a-day photo challenge during the month of June in 2012. These geese were in the long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park.
3-year-old Eva Armstrong keeps on eye on things while swinging with her dad and sibling in Kildonan Park in September 2012.
"People who live in the shadows need to be heard. The use of ambient light in this July 25 photo of Joe Nemcshuk in a rooming house on Pritchard Avenue draws the viewer in to see what lies within those shadows," Mike Aporius said in 2012.
Aaron Slobodzian with his Moluccan Cockatoo, Dana, at the opening of Value Village on Jefferson Avenue in 2013.
Father Jose Recabarren does some last-minute adjustments on his son Saint Recabarren's mowhawk haircut before the first day of school in 2013.
A tree near Hyw. 236 sits in winter's grasp in January 2013.
A massive flock of birds rises over the Arlington Street bridge in March 2013.
Matt McCorquodale heads out before sunrise for a morning of fishing on Marion Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park in June 2013.
Neil Young stares down Joe at a press conference before a concert to raise money and awareness for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Legal Defense Fund in 2014.
Colvin Davis training his bird dog Cooper on the Broomhill Bird Dog Trails in September 2015.
Kicker Hameid Sofizada of the Miles Mac Buckeyes practices on school grounds in East Kildonan at the end of August in 2016.
The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, who died in 2017 of brain cancer, at the MTS Centre in August 2016 during their farewell tour.
Friends Nicky Rajpul and Amerin Rai train with Acroyoga (a combination of yoga and acobatics) in Assiniboine Park one September afternoon in 2016.
Cameron Batista (front) and others help to push out a delivery van stuck in snow on Ellice Avenue during a winter storm in December 2016.
Mike Aporius

Mike Aporius
Director of Photography/Multimedia

Mike Aporius directs the Winnipeg Free Press' team of photojournalists.


Updated on Friday, November 12, 2021 8:20 PM CST: Italicizes Free Press and Winnipeg Sun

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