OVERVIEW: Reuters senior staff photographer Fred Prouser is signing off at age 62, having covered some 3,000 galas and premieres in his 20-plus years on the job. He’s been a fixture on the red carpet and a recognizable face to the stars. Prouser just wrapped his final awards season, deciding to take disability leave after being diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. This past year has included a round of farewells to his fellow photogs, publicists and those who work in showbiz.
BEGINNINGS: Prouser, whose first camera was an Instamatic his mother gave him when he was 19, was hired as a stringer by Pat Benic for UPI in Harrisburg, Pa., where he graduated college. After a stint with the Associated Press, he moved to Los Angeles in 1992 with his wife, Rose, in time to cover the Rodney King beating trial as a freelancer. “My first day of work in L.A. for Reuters was the riots,” Prouser says. “I went to Simi Valley when the verdict came down on a hunch.”
THE BEST PLACE TO BE: By 1998, he was on staff covering news, sports and entertainment. His first premiere, which he covered as a contract photographer, was Warners’ “Lethal Weapon 3” in 1992. “I was new. The Berliners, Alan and Alex (father and son of photo agency Berliner Studios), showed me the ropes. Warner Bros. said to get ready to take the group picture at the end of the premiere, and I had no idea how. Alex said, ‘Stand here.’ And the next day the photo was in USA Today.”
A BIT OF VARIETY: Variety and Reuters had a business relationship in the late ’90s, which led to the addition of photos when the newspaper launched the party page in 1997. “It just took off, and I can recall being up till 2 (a.m.), three to four times a week for a premiere, then a party,” Prouser says. Wife Rose — who died Jan. 1, 2013, of brain cancer — was his work partner, and together they would cover the red carpet. While she was processing the film rolls at the lab, he would stay late for the soirees and more photos.
FAMILIAR FACE: At one Sundance, after Tom Hanks saw him and said hello, a journo asked how he knew the actor. “I said, ‘He doesn’t know my name; he just knows I’m everywhere,’” Prouser says. Those days may be over, but the photog is hardly feeling sorry for himself. He plans to enjoy the time he has left — doctors say a couple of years — and travel. He gets an impish grin when he mentions that he has begun dating and has even changed his Facebook status from single to “in a relationship.”