by Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer

Perhaps the older you get, the faster things seem to slip by and now all of a sudden, it's 2002 and where did 2001 go?

A lot of changes occurred in my personal life, this past year. But my professional life is pretty much the same as it has been. I suppose, if I really wanted to make a point of that, I could go to the computer and determine that I made 288 head shots last year and 238 photos of buildings and intersections. I can't, for the life of me, remember making any photos of note.Oh, I know that I made a few decent images in 2001. But, nothing stands out in my mind at the moment. Isn't that pathetic? I know that I've done my best to make my photos interesting and relevant. But for the most part, they're head shots and real estate, for cryin' out loud. I take pride in my work, but............ 

To illustrate my point, I am including a graphic of three months worth of my head shots. I could only retrieve that many from the computer system. Only three months are stored there. After that, they go to another server and I don't have access to that. Regardless, you will note that there are 72 head shots depicted for the months of October through December. Multiply that by four and a years worth comes out to 288 give or take a hundred. Sad. Very sad that this is the only way that editors know how to illustrate a story. 

Some of the top dogs at my paper hate it when I write about these things. I try to point out that I am not condemning Newsday, but the print media (and sometimes tv) as a whole. The problem is pandemic. TV news has become entertainment. Print news looks for the easiest way to tell the story and that way is with a head shot. 

Crap. I didn't plan to write another gripe session for this journal. I wanted to write something positive. Let's see. Do I have anything positive about which I can write. Naaah. 

OK. I'm kidding. There have been some exciting and compelling photos in the papers and on tv, lately. Perhaps things are looking up if we can only survive the financial problems and cut backs. More editorial jobs are being lost as staffs are reduced. The amount of assignments hasn't dwindled so the remaining staff has to pick up the extra load. That doesn't leave much time for any kind of quality photojournalism. Hopefully, someone out there will take note of the deterioration in journalistic quality and do something to reverse the trend. 

On another topic. Just before the new year, I was doing some maintenance on my home computer. While Norton was defragging my hard drive, I flicked on the tv and swung around to watch "60 Minutes." Dan Rather was interviewing some Magnum photographers and showing some of the work that they produced from the World Trade Center disaster. It goes without saying that the Magnum images were compelling. They are truly a talented and professional group. There were, I believe, six photographers in the studio and Rather spoke with each, asking them about their coverage of 9/11 and how they went about their assignments. At one point he asked one of the photographers what differentiates Magnum photographers from their counterparts who work for daily newspapers. The photographer responded by saying that Magnum photographers are better at delving into the story and coming back with better, more meaningful photographs than newspaper photographers.

I felt the hairs at the back of my neck begin to bristle. Hold on there a minute, Mr. Magnum photographer. Do you get assigned to cover three to six assignments a day? Are you required to make 288 head shots a year? Most of us daily shooters do. And many of us try to make each assignment; each head shot, as relevant and as technically excellent as possible. I have seen the work of a number of newspaper photographers and the excellence of their photographs attests to the effort they put into the stories. Even though it may have been the fourth of six assignments for them that day, they worked the story in the limited amount of time that they had. They used their lights and their lenses to produce quality, story telling images. And even though the photos may have been simple business page head shots, they made them into a compelling photograph.

Many of us look at Magnum and other top agencies, magazines and newspapers and we may envy the kind of stories that their photographers cover. In my years as a Newsday staffer I've had the opportunity to cover some big news events and I've been in some exotic locales around the world. Many times, in such venues, no matter where you turn your camera, there's likely to be a great action shot or a colorful native or a quaint background. For most of us, though, those occasions are a rarity. The majority of the time we are shooting grip and grins (against our better judgment) and bank presidents at their desks. And still we endeavor to make a shot that will stop the reader from turning the page. That's what it's all about for us.

We are starting another year. I don't anticipate any major changes in the way we cover assignments. And so I will continue to do my best with what I am given. I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to work for Newsday and for having had some wonderful and exciting assignments over the years. There's always the possibility that another one will yet come my way. Insh'Allah. That's arabic for "If God wills it."

Happy New Year.

Dick Kraus

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