Texas PPA Mourns L.C. “Gil” Gilstrap

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Past President of TPPA
by
Bill Hedrick

Once again, Texas PPA and the entire photographic industry lost a good friend and a great photographer. L.C. “Gil” Gilstrap, Past President of Texas PPA, passed away on May 14, 2021. He was 92 years old.

Gil was born on November 18, 1928, in Mansfield, Texas, and graduated from Mansfield High School in 1945 and went directly to NTAC in Arlington, now known as UTA. But, after a few semesters, Uncle Sam made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and Gil packed his bags and departed to serve his country. After his induction in San Antonio, the Army kept its promise and sent Gil to see the world, finally ending his tour of duty at Fort Custer in Michigan. He was a Military Policeman.

While he was stationed in Michigan, Gil enrolled in flight training at Kellog Field and, by November of 1947, received his pilot’s license. During this same time period, Gil became interested in making snapshots and, at one military base, he was extended the opportunity to play in their photographic lab. That’s when the bells and whistles blew and his eyes were opened to new challenges ahead. But photography would have to take a temporary back seat when he returned to Fort Worth to find a job.

Soon he landed a job with Cummings Diesel handling various clerical activities to support his new family. But he still couldn’t get photography out of his system so Gil started making “extra” money by working evenings and weekends in retail photographic sales. Of course, that “extra” money went to purchase cameras, enlargers, and other equipment and he soon had his own black-and-white lab. Remember, this was before everyone was using color film.

The lab became successful and Gil soon met some inspiring photographers. One of them was Frank Odell. Working closely with Frank, Gil was introduced to the world of weddings. Over the years, he would photograph hundreds of them. But, for now, he was still employed by Cummings Diesel and was serving in a management position. But management soon recognized his talent and, in 1960, added one more duty… corporate photographer. Gil would continue to serve in this position until he resigned in 1972.

By this time, Gil had made up his mind to make photography a full-time career and, in May of 1972, he and his wife, Barbara, opened Gilstrap Photography in Hurst, Texas. With the world of diesel engines behind him, Gil was now a full-time studio owner. With Barbara’s support as artist, receptionist, sales, bookkeeper and more, the rest is history. But the studio would continue to grow and eventually expand to a 4,000 square foot operation with 11 full-time and 3 part-time employees.

His organizational skills and his business skills were soon recognized and Gil served as President of Texas PPA and was a Trustee for the Texas School of Professional Photography, not to mention service for local and regional photographic associations and community service organizations.

In 1983, Gil received his Master of Photography degree and his Photographic Craftsman degree the following year. His photography won numerous awards over the years with his photographs appearing on the covers of state and national magazines and several images accepted into the PPA National Loan Collection.

Most folks have their own memories of L.C. but I got to know him in the late 1980’s when I was touring the country doing guild programs to earn my Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees. When I arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, I was warmly greeted by L.C. who made me feel instantly “at home.” Later, when I obtained my private pilot’s license, he and I connected on yet another level. He was a pilot as well. He and Barbara retired in 1996 to enjoy traveling with their RV and motorcycle.

L.C. “Gil” Gilstrap leaves behind a family who loved him and a profession that is better because of him.