Assistant Prosecutor never goes out without camera

What was once simply a hobby is being taken to next level

By Tom Gantert
Legal News

Talk to Mark Blumer for 20 minutes and he can tell you about some of the most gruesome killers he’s run across in his career as a prosecutor.

But on this day, the chief assistant prosecutor for Jackson County started his morning following a different passion. He went to the top floor of the Jackson County Tower Building and opened a window blind, and spotted his most recent “person of interest” staring right back at him.

It was a baby falcon whose family nested on top of the building. Blumer has been tracking the family’s progression in a series of photographs.

The last bird in the nest was still there.

“He was standing on the window sill looking at me,” said Blumer, who aimed his lens and captured the image.

Blumer is taking what was once a hobby to the next level. He will present his best photos for sale in an art gallery in Lansing in October and sell them for perhaps $50 each, he said.

About a dozen of Blumer’s photos adorn the walls of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s third floor office. Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka has hung a Blumer photograph on his wall of church with the sun emerging from behind the clouds.

Other photographs are of well-known buildings in the region.

Blumer also has a hobby of collecting antique fountain pens, and at one point owned as many as 300. But as his interest in photography increased, he sold off several of his fountain pens to help pay for camera equipment. Blumer estimates he sold $4,000 worth of his fountain pens—including a few for as much as $800.

He still has about 20 fountain pens, as well as two cameras—a Nikon D800 E with seven lens and a Leica with three lens.

“I’m never without a camera,” he said.

Well, almost never, anyhow.

He still laments a recent day he just went across the street from the office and missed a shot of an intimidating, burly biker with a full beard and tattoos wearing an Iron Horse motorcycle helmet and a leather jacket. He was accompanied by a tiny dog sitting right behind him.

Still, it’s the shots he has taken that are now going to test the free market.

Blumer held up one photograph where he had lain on the ground to get a shot of the dome.  There are other shots of stairs beyond the dome when he was given access to a restricted area, as well as striking architecture and his neighbor’s flowerbed.

He held up a photo of MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village in Manhattan.

“To me, it looks just like a scene from the movie ‘The Godfather,’” Blumer said.

Blumer general keeps all the electronic files and negatives from the photos he takes.

The exception to that rule occurred when he was called in during a 2007 murder case.

That’s when convicted murderer James Hughes led investigators to the remains of Jackson resident Stanley Patla. Hughes had robbed Patla in a Meijer parking lot, then killed and dismembered him before dumping his body in Detroit.

Investigators asked Blumer to come along in case legal issues arose. When the crime scene photographer’s camera malfunctioned, Blumer used his own camera to take crime scene photos. Since he had become involved in the investigation, Blumer said he had to withdraw from any future involvement in the Patla case.

He also turned over all the photos and negatives to investigators, fearful his children may stumble upon the gruesome photos.

“This one bothered me,” Blumer said.

Photography is just one of Blumer’s many creative outlets.

“I think it runs in my blood,” he said.

Blumer has played jazz saxophone and harmonica, and enjoys woodworking. In fact, he built the bookcases and a wall clock in his office.

“Photography is just another outlet for that drive,” Blumer said. “I was interested in photography for quite some time but during the film era I got away from it due to the hassle of developing the pictures and the frustration of having to wait to see if the photo came out the way I intended.  When digital became available, I got back into it.”