THE YOUNG BULL AND THE OLD BULL
By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)
Greetings and salutations, youngsters.
Let me tell you a story.
A young bull and an old bull stood at the top of a hill and looked
down upon a field of young cows grazing in the field below.
Let’s run down there and have our way with one of those young
heifers,” suggested the young bull.
"Let’s walk down there and have our way with them all,” replied
the old bull.
There has always been a generational factor in photojournalism.
It was true in my day and I doubt that it has changed much in yours.
Young bulls are always prone to rushing into things without much
planning and are often loath to take suggestions from the old bulls.
It’s only natural. The old bulls are past their prime and
haven’t kept up with the changes of modern day living (and
I was a young bull, many years ago, and when I was hired as a staffer
at Newsday, I knew that I could shoot circles around the old bulls
on the staff. Many of them had been there for years and years and
were reluctant to change their old fashioned ways. We were transitioning
from the old 4 x 5 Speed Graphics to small format 35mm cameras,
and all you heard around the Photo Department was grousing and
complaining that those new fangled “Mickey Mouse” cameras
wouldn’t do the job.
Me? I couldn’t wait to start shooting with those light, compact,
multi-lensed beauties. Those old fossils didn’t know what
they were missing and they never would.
Ahhh, the ego of youth. When one is a newcomer in this very intense
and competitive profession, ego is a necessity. It acts as a buffer
against the cruel realities that you will face on a daily basis.
You are young and unafraid. You are healthy and will live forever.
You will tread where old bulls fear to tread. Your adrenaline courses
through your body and your only concern is to make THE photograph,
which will introduce you to the world of journalism as the Primo
young photographic genius.
You just don’t know any better. You haven’t experienced
the pain and misery of long, cold, rainy stakeouts. You haven’t
been shot at or bullied by angry citizens or cops or soldiers or
anyone who doesn’t like your face, your camera, your paper’s
politics or the fact that you are sticking your nose in their business.
The old bulls know these things because they have experienced them
many times over. And most of them will share their experiences
with you if only you ask and take the time to listen to their rambling
When I was a young bull, my ego told me that I was a better shooter
than those relics that surrounded me in the Photo Department. But,
I was wise enough to recognize that those old newspukes had something
that I didn’t.
Good God Almighty. What a fountain of information was available
from those guys; Jim Nightingale, Jimmy O’Rourke, Harvey
Weber, Walt del Toro, Cliff DeBear, Tom Maguire, Max Heine. There
was several hundred years of collective experience there for the
My wife used to get annoyed because I would leave for work early
and come home late, in those early years at the paper. I would
tell her that I spent those extra hours sitting at the feet of
It was truly time well spent and it paid off throughout my long
career. I learned from the old timers how to talk a reluctant subject
into allowing me to take their photo. The bulls talked about how
they got past police lines and avoid detection when law enforcement
tried to restrict their access. I picked up tips on how to blend
into the woodwork; to keep my mouth shut; and to shoot my photos
without intruding on the scene.
I owe a good deal of my success in this profession to those veterans.
And as my raging ego subsided, I came to realize that while they
may not have had a lot of proficiency with the newer cameras and
technology, the old bulls were every bit as good a photographer
as I; especially considering the ancient cameras and technology
that they grew up with.
And, one day I woke up and found that I had become an old bull,
along with a number of other photographers of my era. And it bothered
me that whenever we old timers would start to spin our tales of
derring-do, the youngsters would slip out of the room to avoid
being subjected to old war stories. I guess they figured that they
it all and had nothing to learn from the veterans. That’s
a pity because they were wasting a magnificent resource. They may
have thought that they were better shooters than we, but they may
have been wrong. Maybe their shooting responses were faster than
a better eye for a good photo, but maybe not. (Ooops. There’s
that ego thing, back to haunt me.) Yet, there is still that thing
about street smarts.
I love writing my journals for Assignment Sheet. It affords me
the opportunity to recall some of the wonderful assignments that
have enhanced my career. I particularly enjoy writing those “Through
a Lens Dimly” recollections about some of the colorful characters
with whom I worked. Many of them shared their wisdom with me and
I am much wiser for having listened.
In my telling of these stories, I have included some of this wisdom.
I can only hope that there are some young bulls reading them and
learning from them.
Now, walk down the hill and have your way.