Larry Hanelin, KBI Photographer and Donor
When students from Brophy College Preparatory took to the migrant trail during their October 2015 KBI immersion, Larry Hanelin was right there with them. Instead of a water bottle, he brought along his trusty Nikon D4s. That’s what he carries whenever he heads to the KBI, and over the past two years he has visited the comedor, women’s shelter, border fence and streets of Nogales a half-dozen times, all to document the migrant experience and the work of the KBI.
Larry has spent his life with images—examining them as a radiologist with a specialty in nuclear medicine, and making them as a photographer. You could say he inherited this tendency toward the visual, and his vocation and avocation along with it, from his father. Larry’s dad took up radiology while stationed as an internist at Tucson’s Davis–Monthan Air Force Base back in the 1940s, when imaging technology was brand new. He also spent time photographing family vacations and other events, once renting darkroom equipment to develop and print on his own after a trip to Maine. Eight-year-old Larry marveled as the image bloomed on the white paper gliding back and forth in the developing tray. In his teens, he brought an old Brownie to his first away-from-home job as a waiter at Glacier National Park, and a love for capturing images was born.
Though he left his photography activities for a few decades, Larry pursued his interest in medicine, a direction inspired by his father’s livelihood and a desire to help others. As he related a childhood story of throwing a fishnet to save a drowning boy, on that same influential Maine vacation, he observed, “I often seemed to be around when someone needed help.” He went on to pre-med studies at Tufts University, medical school at UCLA and post-graduate studies at UCSF. Practicing in various parts of the country, he’s been a radiologist for over 40 years, currently at Radiology Limited in Tucson, and his tenure as well as his dedication have made him one of the local experts in the field.
Still, the photography bug remained. Sixteen years ago, when he returned to his Tucson birthplace, Larry took up the art form once more, now completely redefined by digital technology. He was ready to explore his creative side again, took some classes, and practiced shooting for dance and theater companies until he gained the skills and confidence to photograph professionally. On days off, evenings, and weekends, he took on wedding, portrait and business projects, which is how he arrived at the KBI comedor one March morning in 2014, to take pictures for the annual report.
Since then, Larry’s images have graced KBI reports, newsletters, brochures and web pages, helping to convey the breadth and urgency of the KBI mission through compelling imagery. After several visits to Nogales and profoundly moved by the KBI’s work and the plight of the migrants, he decided to donate his services and time. “Though I’ve worked in medicine where people are very dedicated to serving,” he says, “I’d never in my life run into people like the nuns, priests, staff and volunteers in Nogales who extend themselves to people who are in so much need. They are absolutely tireless, day in and day out, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Larry lives in Tucson with his wife Rosemarie, who is also active as a KBI volunteer and donor, serving on the Tucson fundraiser committee last fall. Theirs is a blended family, all of whom have been motivated to work in service-oriented professions—his two sons are both radiologists, following a family tradition, and his daughter works for the Stanford University Alumni Association; Rosemarie’s son is a surgical resident; and their daughter is currently applying to doctoral programs in clinical psychology.
Larry considers his work with the KBI to be part of a larger spiritual journey. Walking with Father Pete and the Brophy students on the migrant trail; learning more about the migrant experience from Joanna’s presentations; mingling with the migrants in the comedor and at the shelter; driving around Nogales with Father Sean to take pictures of the fence; on one occasion, feeling woozy after a hot and wearying 5-hour shoot with almost no water, taking a fall as he crossed back to the U.S., and being helped to his feet by a stranger—these experiences have been transformative. As Larry reflects, “It’s life-changing, seeing the goodness in people and how we help each other.” That sense of connection and compassion is alive in Larry’s photographs, too, and have helped to communicate the reality of the border through powerful imagery, and to change the hearts and minds of those who view them.