Associated Press photographer Elise Amendola, who documented decades of sports and news, dies at 70
May 12, 2023, 11:20 AM | Updated: 11:40 am
Renowned Associated Press photojournalist Elise Amendola — a determined, joyous and patient journalist who masterfully photographed pivotal global news and sporting events spanning decades — has died. She was 70.
Amendola, who recently retired from the AP, died Thursday at her home in North Andover, Massachusetts, after a 13-year battle with ovarian cancer, her wife and fellow photographer Mary Schwalm said Friday.
Amendola documented many important moments in history, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Boston Marathon bombing, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, U.S. presidential campaigns, and many Super Bowls, Olympics, World Series and other major sporting events.
“I owe the AP for our beautiful life,” Schwalm told the AP Friday. “I first met Elise when I was a photo runner at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. By Athens in 2004, I was a staff photo editor on the sports desk and we’d become friends. I had the pleasure to edit her photos … It was so easy, she never missed.”
The two worked together for years — Schwalm in New York and Amendola in Boston, often collaborating on assignments.
In the fall of 2006, Schwalm said she left her photo editing position in New York to live with Amendola in North Andover. “Seventeen years of pure joy, 11 of them as her wife,” she said. “I am heart broken.”
Her longtime friend and teammate, fellow Boston photographer Charles Krupa, described one of his favorite photographs that Amendola made when the two were on assignment together covering golf.
Davis Love had just won the PGA championship in 1997.
“After a hard week of work in the rain,” Krupa remembered, “Love tipping his cap to the crowd with a panoramic rainbow tying the moment together as one.”
“I knew she had the angle on it, and when we were done with the day she absolutely nailed that picture. She nailed pictures like that throughout her career,” Krupa said. “(Love) found his pot of gold that day, and Elise did too.”
Amendola started her career with the AP wire service as a freelancer in the early 1980s before being hired onto staff in 1983. She retired in 2021. She was born in New York and was a graduate of Tufts University.
“The word legend is often overused, but in this case, it’s not big enough,” said Associated Press Director of Photography David Ake in a note to staff. “She was a superior photographer but, more importantly, a fabulous person.”
Ake remembered his days “chasing candidates” around New Hampshire with Amendola.
“Her coverage of the first Clinton presidential campaign should be a textbook,” Ake said. “It didn’t matter how cold, hot, wet, or miserable an assignment was; Elise never caved and stuck with it until a picture was made. If I had to describe what drove that determination, I would say ‘joy.’”
AP business photo editor Peter Morgan first met Amendola at the Boston bureau around 1980, when she brought in tennis photos for consideration. Morgan was trying to get started as a stringer at the time, and worked with her on dozens of assignments over the following decades.
“Elise was one of the greats — not just as a photographer, but as a person,” Morgan said. “It was a joy to know you would be working on the same assignment – her presence guaranteed good photos and good company.”
AP photographer Julie Jacobson said she admired Amendola and her work before the two ever met, when she was still working for a newspaper in the 1990s.
“There weren’t a lot of women photographers who shot sports back then,” Jacobson said. “But she did, was good at it and she was one of a few whose bar I looked to when setting my own goals.”
Then Jacobson was hired as a staff photographer at the AP, and said she was “star struck” when she met Amendola.
“Meeting Elise for the first time at the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002 was really exciting for me,” she said. “We would end up working together multiple times at various events through the next 19 years or so, mostly sporting events. And I was always star struck.”
Jacobson said Amendola was the “the epitome of team player, happy to shoot anywhere and share knowledge with the rest of the crew.”
More importantly, she said, Amendola treated everyone with respect. “As good as she was, no one was beneath her,” Jacobson said.
Bill Sikes, a retired Boston AP photo editor, recalled a moment after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.
“Elise and her longtime teammate Charlie Krupa slept in the lobby of the Westin Hotel overnight so not to be forced outside the police perimeter that had been set up around the site,” Sikes said. “The next morning, Elise went to the upper floors of the hotel and knocked on doors till she found a room that provided a view of both bombing sites. She rented that room so all AP platforms had that vantage point for the remainder of the week.”
Remembering her dedication to the craft, Sikes said, “There was never a doubt she would deliver compelling photos from every type of assignment, no matter the challenges.”
Amy Sancetta, a fellow retired AP photographer, remembered her friend on Friday.
“She fought her illness with the same tenacity, courage and good nature that she carried in all aspects of her life,” Sancetta said. “Elise never, ever gave up: not climbing the hill on 18 at Augusta, not freezing all day at the base of an Olympic ski mountain, and not with cancer. Working, playing hoops, enjoying her life and her friends and her beloved wife Mary Schwalm, Elise showed her joyous spirit and firm determination.”
Schwalm said Elise, who loved basketball, preferred to not have a service or flowers.
“She’d love for you to go to the courts, and shoot a basketball from the baseline, her best midrange jump shot,” Shwalm said in an email to the AP. “Or make an assist in some way, Elise loved to make a good pass.”