by Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer (retired)


Since I am now retired, and will have few, if any, daily adventures to recount on these pages, I will have to do what most of us old newspukes do; rely upon our memories. I did this, many years ago, on the NPPA-List. I wrote a series of columns based on memories of things past. The series was called "Through A Lens Dimly." And it came about like this.

I had begun my career as a newspuke with Newsday (Long Island, NY) back in 1960. It was a far different world back then. Newspapers still had an aura reminiscent of the famous stories of Damon Runyon. Runyon wrote stories and plays based upon the colorful people who worked in the newspaper profession and about the even more colorful people about whom they wrote.

I remember how the Photo Staff would try to get together for lunch or dinner, depending on the shift you worked. It was a lot looser in those days and we could frequently field a pretty good team at lunch back then. After the first couple of beers (I said it was looser) someone would bring up a story that he had worked on. (Sorry, ladies. It was truly an all male fraternity in those earlier years) He would tell us about the whacko that he photographed. Someone else would bring up an even more bizarre incident. And someone would chime in with, "Hey, do you remember old what's his name, who was a photographer here in the '50's?" And he would tell some outrageous incident that old what's his name was involved in.

Harvey Weber was the Director or Photography in those days. He would preside over these sessions and would frequently contribute some tales of his own. He would lament that these stories were too good to be believed. And he would point out that they would be lost to posterity after we were gone. He suggested that we should get together one evening, with a keg of beer and a tape recorder and commit these irreplaceable memories to some semblance of permanency.

We never did and most of us are now dead.

Many years passed and the computer age came upon us and new ways of doing things came into being. When I finally succumbed to the nagging of my grown children, urging me to get into the new era. I found myself the owner of a computer and an internet hookup. I discovered the NPPA-List and became immersed in the give and take of information and ideas that proliferated there. And, an idea germinated in my pea brain. An idea that this could be the medium by which I could keep those marvelous stories alive. And so, "Through A Lens Dimly," was conceived and it became an instant success. I started receiving e-mails from around the world urging me to publish more stories. Thus far, I have written about 60 of them and have a lot more to be written. Some of them tell about the strange events that some of have lived through. Some are sad; many are hilarious. Some are long. Some are short. A lot of them talk about some of the wonderful people with whom I have had the honor and pleasure to work. Many are histories of some of the stories with which I was personally involved and I talk about how I was affected by them.

I hope that you will enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed remembering and writing about them. Please let me know.

Dick Kraus


And now for the first of


Jim Nightingale

Jim Nightingale was a photographer who had many talents. He had been a hoofer in vaudeville and he also used to entertain us with sleight of hand and card tricks as we waited for our film to come out of the drier. He was also an accomplished story teller, and this is one of his stories.

It was a slow news day and when the photo editor received a phone call from a woman who claimed to have trained some mice to play musical instruments he figured "What the Hell" and sent Nite to get a photo. With a great deal of trepidation, Nite grabbed his Speed Graphic and drove down to Freeport to shoot this wonderful event.

He was greeted at the door by a lovely elderly lady with blue rinsed hair. She ushered him in to her apartment and asked him to wait while she got the band into their uniforms. The lady seemed harmless so Nite opted to stay to see what this was all about. The woman returned to the livingroom and announced, "Get ready. Here they come." Nite cocked the compur shutter on his 4x5, inserted a Press #40 flash bulb and pulled the dark slide on the film holder and pointed his camera down empty rug. "Isn't that nice" the woman exclaimed. "They're playing John Phillip Sousa marches and spelling out your newspaper's name. But, be careful. Don't step on them. They are so tiny."

Ever the gentleman and always in control, Jim Nightingale focused his camera at the empty floor and fired. Changing flashbulbs and film holders, he shot a dupe, and muttering something about what a talented troupe of performers the old lady had, he fled into the night.



Every profession has it's own unique way of screwing with the new kid's head. Photography is no different.

While this particular incident predates my newspaper service, it is worth noting on these pages.

I was a US Navy Photographer's Mate stationed at the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, MD back in the '50's. I worked in a large lab that had several enlarging and contact printing rooms that opened into a large central finishing room that contained print washers and dryers and large tables for sorting and stamping prints. The photo officer in charge of the lab had an office with a window that looked out into this finishing room.

One day we received a shipment of swabbies fresh out of the photo school in Pensacola, FL. One of them was put to work punching hypo in one of the enlarging rooms. For the uninitiated, punching hypo is the low seniority man's job. He soups the prints that are made by more senior photographers and mushes the prints around in the fixer and tosses them through the pass-through into the finishing room washers.

After a few days, the petty officer in charge of his room decided to play a little joke on the kid. He told him that due to plumbing problems, he would have to take the prints to the contact printing room next door, to develop. The kid wasn't all that dumb. The only way to the other room was via the finishing room which was fully lit. He knew that the paper would fog if he entered that room first. The petty officer said, "Look, kid. Enlarging paper is pretty slow. If you hug the emulsion side to your chest, and run fast, it'll be OK." Well, the kid tried it. Tried it many times, in fact. All with the same results...fogged prints. The petty officer kept telling the kid, " gotta run faster."

The photo officer was watching this charade taking place, and when the kid was in the other room, souping yet another piece of fogged paper, he went to the enlarging room petty officer to find out what was going on. The P.O. told him and the boss winked and said, "Let me take over." The print job they were working on was a reprint order and the original print was available. The officer grabbed the kid when he came back with another failed print. "Listen, kid. You can't keep wasting taxpayer's money this way. I'm going to show you how it's done, and if I can do it, so can you." And, as prearranged, the petty officer made another print exposure...but, on the back of the original print. He passed it off to the photo officer, making sure that the image side wasn't visible. Clutching the paper, image side in to his chest, the photo officer bellowed, "Now follow me." And tore through the finishing room with the perplexed youngster in his wake. When they got to the other print room, the boss slipped the print into the developer, image side down. He sloshed it around in the soup and gently turned it right side up. And there for all to see, was a perfectly exposed, un-fogged print.

To this day, that kid is probably wondering how the boss did it.



It was another newsless summer Sunday when the phone rang in the photo dept.

"You're probably going to think that I'm just another nut case" said a woman over the phone to our photo editor. "But, my kids have just found a Siamese butterfly. I kid you not. There are two butterflies joined together. They have it in a jar out on the patio, right now."

Well, it could happen.

So Al Raia, one of our staffers, was dispatched to the woman's home to see if this was a hoax. He returned several hours later with nice clear close-ups of two butterflies joined together, each with its' own set of wings and legs and bodies.

The photo ran Page One the next day declaring it a rare scientific discovery. And then the phones started ringing. The responses from an incredulous public was something like this:

"Siamese butterflies??? Are you crazy? Don't you fools know how baby butterflies are made?"


I hope that you enjoyed these.

More next month.

Dick Kraus


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