by Dick Kraus
After 42 years as a photographer for Newsday, the period of time that
I look back on with the most distaste are the two and one half years
that I spent behind the desk as Night Photo Editor. Without going
into a lot of gruesome detail, it will suffice to say that the key
complaint was that of utter frustration. The following story exemplifies
this frustration and was one of the reasons that I ran, not walked,
back to the street as fast as my bandy legs would carry me.
It was a warm, humid Long Island evening and the news desk was working
on a nice little feature that had all the elements of good pictures.
The story concerned the fact that a lot of the Long Island matrons
who enjoyed strolling through the scent filled walkways of a local
arboretum in the evening were being disturbed by young people who
were taking advantage of the rolling terrain in the gardens by whipping
around on their skateboards.
I must admit that I succumbed to something that I detest in Photo
Editors; I drew mind images of these kids in tattered cut-off shorts
and wild, wind-whipped long hair doing their youthful thing while
prim white-haired old ladies looked on in shock as they hitched in
their skirts lest they be soiled by these rowdy youth.
I had but two veteran photographers working that night and both were
already assigned. So, I called in one of our summer photo interns
and explained the assignment to him. I never liked having an editor
or reporter telling me how to shoot an assignment, so I merely tried
to impress upon this lad that the key to this story should be the
intereaction of the two generations. And with that, I pushed him out
Several hours went by. The other two photographers came back from
their jobs and we picked their film. The three of us chatted while
waiting for the return of the intern. At last he was back and into
the soup went his film. He didn't talk much about the assignment so
I assumed that his photos would do all the talking. Finally, his negatives
were laid out on the light box.
He had a heavy take so I started with roll #1, frame #1. By the time
I finished the last frame of the last roll, the blood had drained
from my head and I was having trouble breathing.
"What the Hell are you showing me, here? There isn't a clear
frame in the bunch. All I see are disparate shapes, blurs and God
knows what else? I can't make out a skateboarder or a matron or even
a clump of bushes. What were you thinking?"
By now, the other two photographers had the loupe and were looking
at the kid's film.
"I used my 400mm lens on everything, and I guess I may have been
over lensed." was his reply.
"Over lensed! Over lensed!" I could barely talk. Everything
came out in splutters. "What the Hell are we going to put in
the paper? There isn't one frame here that's usable. You had fading
twi-light to begin with. Plus fast moving skate-boarders. What possessed
you to use a 400?"
"I was looking for the "Magic Moment."
The two pro's exploded and I thought they would wet their pants. Me,
I went out to look for the Managing Editor to see about going back
on the street.