by Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer (retired)



There are times when the characters who we photograph are not nearly as colorful as the characters who inhabit our own work spaces. I have worked with an assortment of oddballs over the span of my career. And, no doubt, I have made the oddball list of many of my compatriots.

It stands to reason that many of us would have some weird traits. First of all, you have to be a little weird to be in the newspaper business. Perhaps the only other professions that require employees to work odd hours with days off in the middle of the week and to be available 24/7 and work under hazardous conditions in all kinds of weather, are cops, firemen and the military. And, we consider ourselves to be artists and we all know how odd most artists are.

One of the oddballs that comes to mind was a loveable character known simply as "The Greek." That's what he called himself and that's what he answered to "Hi. It's The Greek," he would call in after completing an assignment. "What else d'ya have for me?"

Actually, he was Greek and had a very Greek name, so this should come as no surprise. He had been a short order cook in several diners on Long Island and I doubt that he ever paid for a cup of coffee at any diner in the area.

And now he was a staff photographer, and a good one, at that. But, he was a character. No doubt about it. He was loud and unpredictable and he certainly enlivened any scene in which he played a role. He would bluster back into the Photo Department at the end of his shift and loudly proclaim, "You've seen the rest. Get ready for the best." And when he brought his film out of the darkroom and laid it on the light table for the editor, he would always yell out, "It's gem time!"

The antithesis to The Greek was a sweet, soft-spoken young woman named Naomi. She was pretty; had a great figure and was extremely intelligent. This was one very classy lady. At that time, she was the only female shooter in what had been an exclusive men's club. Needless to say, the Photo Department was a bawdy place to be when a group of photographers were in residence. The language was salty and the jokes were filthy. Naomi never complained and never sought to change anything about the place. If she were talking with some of the guys and the discussion and the language got a little raunchy, she would simply disappear. She never said a word. No one could ever remember her leaving. She would just silently slip away. Now, that's class.

Unfortunately, she got badly hurt in a love affair and for comfort she sought solace in religion. She joined a charismatic cult and became deeply involved in it. Soon, she had no social life and devoted her free time to the demands of her new religion. During her working hours, she would do her job and in between assignments, she would sit in her car and study her religious tracts.

Frequently, I would see her sitting in her car in the company parking lot, absorbed in her study.

"Naomi," I would say through her car window, "weren't you supposed to be at your assignment at 7 PM? It's almost 8."

"Oh," she would say, looking up startled. "Don't worry. God will provide."

Well, I guess He did, because she never caught any flack for showing up late on any assignments.

One day she returned to the paper after finishing her assignments. She was very distressed. She showed us the bent back to her Nikon F camera. Someone had jarred it out of her hand while she was changing film and it hit the floor, bending the back. She tried to straighten it, to no avail.

In those days, we had to buy our own cameras and lenses, although the paper paid for repairs. But, she already had one of her two camera bodies in the shop being fixed, and now her only other camera had been rendered useless.

"What am I to do," she moaned.

Enter The Greek. Upon hearing her sorrowful plaint, he went over to his locker and came back holding a pristine camera back for a Nikon F.

"Here, Naomi," he said. "I just got a new motor drive for my camera and I won't be needing the old back. You can have it."

"Oh, thank God," said Naomi, as she brightened right up. "I knew that God would provide."

The Greek exploded. "God would provide! God would provide!" he spluttered. "I'm the one who provided."

Ah, well, Greek. The believers among us might have pointed out to you that you were God's instrument, but at the moment, such words would have gone unheard.

© 2002 Dick Kraus
May not be republished in any part without written consent of the author

Dick Kraus


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