Karen Ocamb

WeHo Photographer Brian Putnam Dead at 48

Filed By Karen Ocamb | January 04, 2013 1:19 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: addiction battles, alcohol, Brian Putnam, commit suicide

Brian Putnam, an LGBT event photographer and friend to many in West Hollywood, took his own life on Dec. 23, just two days before Christmas. He was 48.

brian-putnam.jpgThe announcement was made on Dec. 29 by his sister on Putnam's Facebook page:

"This is Brian Putnam's sister, Tracy. It is with great sadness that I am letting you know of his death. On Dec 23rd, my Dad and I were contacted by an LA police detective notifying us of his apparent suicide in West Hollywood. My Dad and I struggled for the past 15 months trying to help Brian fight his battle with alcohol and depression. I was able to pick up his car and personal items this past Thursday. I am so sad that he had isolated himself from family and friends and died alone when it didn't have to be."

NOH8 Campaign founders celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley posted the above photo and wrote about Putnam's death on their Facebook page:

In memory of our friend Brian Putnam, a kind and familiar face from West Hollywood who passed away over the holidays. Brian, pictured here in the 110th NOH8 photo ever taken, was an incredible supporter of the campaign who constantly volunteered his time and talent - from our first events in 2009 to as recent as our Fresno event this past July. Brian's passion and positivity will be missed, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. His death is a true loss for the community.

Remember that no matter how bad things may seem, there is always someone there to listen when you need help. We know the holidays can be rough, but if you feel as if you have nowhere to turn, PLEASE call our friends at The Trevor Project Lifeline (866-488-7386) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)'.

Our friend Greg Hernandez, president of the LA chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the ubiquitous and beloved reporter/blogger at Greg In Hollywood, posted this:

Brian shot photos at countless LGBT events including the GLAAD Awards, the Pride Parade in West Hollywood, Bingo at Hamburger Mary's Musical Mondays at Eleven, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala and so many more.

More often than not, he would send me a link to use whatever photos I wanted on Greg In Hollywood and used to frequently post comments on the blog.

Freelance writer and NLGJA blogger Kevin A. Barry wrote in an email, (including the link to this photo of them together):

Brian was one of the first people I met when I moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and went out of his way to introduce me around to make sure I felt welcomed by the Los Angeles community for the four years that I lived there. He was an amazing person who will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him.....Brian's death is a true loss for our community and is someone who will truly be missed.

Barry added this on his Facebook page:

As many of you know, 2012 was a year where I lost many loved ones. There has been a lot of pain and sadness that only subsides when sharing warm memories of the people who made a difference in our lives. One such person was Brian Putnam. Brian was a friend of mine in West Hollywood who was always smiling and always taking pictures much in the same way my late Aunt Mimi did. He took a real joy out of chronicling people's lives from behind the camera so much so that he made it his profession. As such, it is with true sadness that I find out that I...we..have lost one more loved one in 2012 as Brian took his life on December 23 due to an on-going battle with alcohol and depression. I always liked Brian a lot. He is...was a good friend and he will be missed as he walks into the light. As we begin a new year, I have a good feeling that 2013 holds a lot of promise. Good things definitely are on the horizon. As you make your resolutions, be sure to include telling your friends and family how much you love them. More importantly, show them before it is too late. Brian Putnam, may your soul finally be at peace. xo

After an outpouring of sympathy and comments, Putnam's sister Tracy posted this:

I see that many of you are asking about services for Brian. We will be having a private family service for Brian. I hope you can understand that my dad and I are still struggling with his passing.?I think that it would be very fitting for someone in the WeHo community to honor Brian at maybe a Musical Monday... I know he loved going to that or I think he enjoyed Hamburger Mary's. You all were his family of friends and can probably find a way to gather and share stories. As far as how he died... I would rather hold that privately until I get the full police report and autopsy. I will tell you that he was staying at a West Hollywood hotel, ignoring the room lease he secured for Dec. 1st."

I want to add a quick personal note here to address those who might not understand how lethal the combination of alcohol and depression can be.

I am a suicide survivor and a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Even after almost 33 years of being clean and sober, there are still times when I feel the tug of depression, something we now medically understand is an actual chemical condition in the brain. It starts when I feel sad - an oddly comfortable familiar feeling. But underneath that sadness is a swirl of loneliness and rage, a current that can quickly turn into a whirlpool that sucks you under into a black sea of depression. That, too, feels oddly familiar - part grandiose self-indulgence, part panic as you tire of treading water and sink into despair.

Alcohol might seem like a life-jacket - but it really only adds dead weight, drawing you further and further down, drowning your brain, your psyche, your emotions, your spirit until you are just so hurt and outraged - you want to give up.

I have been there. I have been overwhelmed with darkness. And I confess, there are times when I've been a little bit in love with the darkness, too. That chemical imbalance can be enticing: that rage under the sadness feels empowering - until suddenly everything seems so overwhelming.

But it's not. As long as there is a breath to take, there is a choice to make. I know that now. But I'm clean and sober. I could easily forget - or choose to forget - if I got drunk again.

I mention this so Brian Putnam's suicide is not in vain. If you are feeling sad, lonely, depressed or in despair, please reach out for help. And, as Kevin Barry noted above, please remember to tell people you love them or respect them and let our fellow human beings know that they are not alone. You are not alone. Someone understands.

May Brian Putnam now rest in peace.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.