by Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer

Now that the dust has settled and other stories need to be told, it's obvious that the adrenaline rush that followed September 11th won't be sustained. The bean counters are back to considering costs. Head shots and real estate are the assignments of the day, once again. Pity.

Don't get me wrong. I would never, ever wish for a repeat or a continuation of the destruction that was visited upon us in order that we might continue to have great photos appear in the media. But, having seen what good photography can do, it would be nice if we were allowed to contribute good photos to our papers and tv stations. Head shots and real estate just don't do it.

Can we as photographers change the prevailing attitude? Crap, no! As a Director of Photography told me when he hired me, "It's a word man's game." That was 40 years ago, and it hasn't changed. News photographers are the most disenfranchised group of professionals to ever come down the pike. We attend seminars and short courses to try to learn to do our jobs better. We stay on top of the new technology for the same reason. We are told to get more involved in the news room and in the story process. But when we try to voice an opinion or make a suggestion, we are usually ignored.

So, what can we do to prove our worth and our effectiveness as journalists with a camera? Should we just throw in the towel and give "them" what they want? If all they want are head shots and real estate, why try to give them any more?

I'll tell you my reasons why. Professionalism. Personal integrity. Those are very lofty sounding terms and I probably sound pretty imperious using them. But, I am serious. Listen.

Forty years ago, I used to get pissed when they didn't use my photos. So, I developed an attitude that got me through. But, I've ignored that attitude lately and have grown more and more unhappy. So, I plan to resurrect that attitude. Simply put, no matter how trivial the assignment, I tried to give it my best effort and if I could go home at night feeling that I had made good photos, I could feel good about myself. And if the photo wasn't in the paper the next day, too bad. It was their loss, not mine.

And so I have also begun to do some of the things that helped me make silk purses out of sow's ears in the past. The other day, I had a bunch of location political head shots for our yearly Voter's Guide. I dug into my car's trunk and schlepped out a slaved flash gun, light stand and umbrella and damned if I didn't come away with some pretty nice portraits. I felt pretty good about myself and maybe I helped make the paper look a little bit better.

I can't change the way the word people think about pictures, but I can change the way I think about myself. One small step for journalism. One giant step for Dick Kraus. How about that?

Dick Kraus


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