A photojournalist once assigned routinely to cover conflicts around the globe, McGahee studied under the likes of Ansel Adams and in 1978 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. Just four years later, McGahee was honored in Amsterdam with what he describes as his greatest professional achievement -- the World Press Photo: Oskar Barnak Prize, an international award he likens to Europe's Pulitzer Prize.
As a veteran of his trade, McGahee recalls his own war stories, like that one time in El Salvador in which his life was saved from an AK wielding teenager in return for a Tina Turner cassette tape. In years past he felt somehow protected by his camera and through it captured the world's events over several decades.
As time progressed and his son was born, McGahee transitioned into the role of editor and now heads up in-house publications at Kennesaw State University. In his time off, he enjoys the great outdoors and takes comfort in being on the other end of the barrel come hunting season.
Name: Neil B. McGahee
Occupation: Managing Editor, University Publications, Kennesaw State University
Education: B.S. Political Science, Georgia Southwestern State University
M.A. Mass Communication, University of Missouri
Family: Wife, Sharon. We have been married 31 years; son, Zack,16, two dogs and seven cats
City of Residence: Cartersville (Originally from Thomaston).
How did you get into the field of photojournalism?
A. I had every intention of using my political science degree to find a job in state or federal government, perhaps with the State Department. In my senior year at Southwestern, a professor saw some of my photographs and said I might enjoy photojournalism. I had no idea what he was talking about so I began investigating. When I saw the work of LIFE magazine photographers like W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange and Alfred Eisenstaedt, I was hooked. After graduation in 1971, I applied to Rochester Institute of Technology in New York to study photojournalism. While there, I studied under some of the giants of documentary photography including Bruce Davidson, Minor White and the incomparable Ansel Adams. After I finished at RIT, I found a job as a news photographer at the Bradenton Herald, a small daily in Florida. I spent the next 25 years shooting photos at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Tampa Tribune. I covered just about every story imaginable including the collapse of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the Iranian hostage crisis, the 1972 through the 1998 presidential campaigns, the Haitian boatlift, the Nicaraguan revolution, civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala in central America as well as wars in Africa in the Sudan, Eritrea, Chad and Somalia.
What is your favorite part of your job?
A. As managing editor of Kennesaw State publications, I am part of a team of writers and page designers that publishes four 44-page magazines and six four-page newsletters. We have some extraordinary things happening at Kennesaw State like the opening of Prillaman Hall, the new 200,000 square-foot teaching facility for the WellStar School of Nursing and more than $16 million in research projects. It's an invigorating environment to work in.
What would you consider your greatest personal or professional achievement?
A. My greatest personal achievement is being a dad to my 16-year-old son, Zack. He's a junior at Cass High.
My greatest professional achievement was winning the 1982 Oskar Barnak Prize awarded by World Press Photo Holland for the best daily news photo in the world. Sharon and I were flown to Amsterdam and I was presented the prize by the Dutch prime minister in a very elaborate ceremony. I was also fortunate enough to win the 1980 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and was named one of the two finalists for the 1978 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography.
What would most people be surprised to learn about you?
A. I collect antique fountain pens.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A. Anywhere there are more trees than people but I particularly like Stamp Creek in the Pine Log WMA. I'm an avid fly-fisherman and enjoy catching a stringer of trout, but I'm equally happy just sitting on the bank and listening to the gurgling water.
What is the best advice you have received?
A. Don't look back; something might be gaining on you.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
A. Funny, loyal, caring.
If you were not in this line of work, what would you like to do?
A. I would really like to drive a freight train. I think it would be so cool to sit up in that locomotive with thousands of horsepower at your control while everyone waves at you.