By Savanah Mandeville • Photos by Billy Wade
There isn’t a dull moment in the life of Billy Wade.
That’s because a given week for the photographer behind “4 States Fire and Emergency Photography” and “Missouri Redneck Storm Chasers” might include shooting a house fire, a car accident, a crime scene, and, depending on the time of year, a flood, an ice storm or a tornado.
“I’ve covered probably close to 1,000 scenes in the last 10 years,” Wade said. “Of course, when I first started, I wasn’t doing so many. Now, it’s usually three or four per week, and I shoot approximately 5,000 photos per week.”
Wade’s photography, an amalgam of creative expression and photojournalism, is often used by police or fire departments for investigative or educational purposes. Sometimes, Wade uses his photos to tell stories about first responders and showcase their work that often goes unseen by the public.
“I recently photographed one of my buddies, a paramedic. He’d just gotten done working on a patient after a cement truck rolled over, and he had blood all over him. He ended up saving the patient’s life, and, to me, that was a very special moment to photograph. The photo went viral on Facebook, so it was gratifying to get him the recognition he deserved.”
Wade found his calling unexpectedly. Ten years ago, he was dabbling in photography and happened to shoot a grass fire one afternoon. The local fire department reached out to him about the photos, which led to an assignment, and then another. Today, he’s on the scene of just about every crime, accident or storm that happens in the Four States. He also shoots headshots, portraits, apparatus shots and building shots for local departments.
Wade’s line of work means he’s seen things most people never see, things most people hope to never have to see.
“It’s not for the faint of heart because you see a lot,” he said. “I try to cope with it pretty well. I do a lot of praying, meditating and venting if I have to. It’s been a crazy ride. People don’t realize the stuff that happens, even in this small of an area.”
Like our public safety workers, Wade is on the frontlines of tragedy on an almost-daily basis. So, why does he do it?
“You get to give back and you get to help,” he said. “One thing I’ll stress to the public is to get to know your law enforcement and firefighters and EMS. Cherish them and show appreciation every chance you can. Any way to show positivity and appreciation for public safety is a huge thing in my life.”
Disclaimer: “Don’t try doing this photography because it’s very dangerous. There have been amateur photographers getting in the way of first responders. Do not try this.” — Billy Wade
Find Billy Wade’s work on social media
Facebook: Billy Wade Photography*
4 States Fire and Emergency • 4 State Stringers
The Missouri Redneck Storm Chasers
Instagram: MoStormChaser2010 •
4 States Fire and Emergency Photography
*Including weddings, family photos, senior photos and more. Public safety workers receive a 50% off discount for regular photoshoots and $150-$250 off weddings.