THROUGH A LENS DIMLY
by Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)
Smiley was a classic.
He was a legend long
before I came to the paper. He never wore socks, even in winter. And they
say, he never wore
underwear. His cameras
always showed the strain of neglect and lack of care, but, they always
produced superior images. It started with the old 4x5 Speed Graphic,
down through several
Rollie's and finaly some Nikon F's. He was a crusty soul with rugged
good looks and a gruff manner, but as far as news photography was concerned,
always count on him to come back with a good photo. Smiley was straight
out of Damon Runyon.
Once, a long time ago, when I was night photo editor and he worked
the late shift,
I got a call from him, an hour before his shift started.
"I'll be a little
late" he said. "I'm in the emergency room."
I cut my finger on my lawn mower, but I'm ok and I'll be in as soon
as I can."
He showed up about 40 minutes late, and the middle finger on
one of his hands was swathed in bandages in a mummy wrap kind
"What is that?" I asked.
"Oh the damn mower got clogged with wet grass and I lifted the deck to shake
out the clumps and I cut my f@*%##! finger off."
It was off at the 2nd joint and this was before micro-surgery
could put it back. I told him to go home, but he insisted on
his full shift,
minutes that he was late.
Smiley's forte was sports. Being the late man, he usually wound
up with a Yankee or Mets game in summer or a Knicks,
Nets basketball or Ranger
game in winter. But boxing....that's where he really
shone. There's a huge blow-up of one of his classic boxing shots
that hung in
our paper for
years. It was a Frazier-Ali (although I think the Champ
was still known as Cassius Clay in those days) Heavyweight Championship
fight at Madison
NY City. Ali/Clay won the fight with a powerful right
jaw and Smiley caught the full impact in his photo.
The timing couldn't have
was grimacing from the effort and his gloved fist had
just made contact with Frazier's jaw. The impact threw the sweat
and the electronic
flash froze each drop in sharp detail. I love that
image and have tried in vain to duplicate it whenever I had to shoot
the exquisite sense of timing that Smiley had. I was
always a fraction of a second too soon, or too late.
But, these images didn't come without a price. Whenever
I had to assign Smiley to a boxing match, I had to
endure 20 minutes
his seat assignment.
"Another f@*%##! boxing job! +&%^##@, I suppose I have the same f@*%##!
seat that I always get. The f@*%##! seat is right
in the corner and it's bad enough that I have the f@*%##!
pole in my way, but everytime the f@*%##! fighter
comes back to his corner between rounds, he spits in
the bucket and usually misses and I have to wipe the
S&*%%$ off my camera. Then
the manager swipes him with a rancid sponge, and I
get a f@*%##!
He had a point. I saw him when he came back from the
fights, and although he certainly wasn't a stylish
dresser, he looked
he had gone
a few rounds
with the winner.
So, one night I cornered our sports
editor. He was the one who arrainged for Smiley's credentials
Garden. I told
him what Smiley had told me and I vouched for his accuracy
while asking for
a better location for him, next time.
"Why should I go to all that trouble?" was the answer I got. "The
son of a bitch comes back with fantastic photos every