A LENS DIMLY
DAMMIT ALL TO HELL
By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)
There were times when nothing you did went right. This journal
is about one of those days.
In my September 2005 journal, I wrote about covering the 1983 National
Democratic Convention in San Francisco. If you didn’t read
it yet, you can now by clicking here: http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0509/assign/dk_tald0509.htm
I talked about the office politics that created two Chief Photo
Editors at Newsday, both of whom thought that they were running
the Photo Department. This caused a monumental snafu for the four
who were assigned to cover the convention because in addition to
receiving conflicting orders, we were never issued the necessary
credentials to get onto the convention floor to make the photographs
that were needed for the daily stories.
About the only photos that we were able to make were for the sidebar
stories outside the convention center. The Chief Photo Editor back
on Long Island kept screaming at us that the paper had to run wire
shots to go with the stories. None of our shots were making the
That really stung us and we felt like we had been hung out to dry.
In past instances when we had covered major conventions, not only
did our shots make up the biggest displays in the paper, each day,
but the wire services were taking our shots which were used by
papers all over the country.
We all chaffed at our impotence.
On the last day, when candidate Walter Mondale was to accept his
party’s nomination, I was determined to get something that
might make Newsday’s Page One. What I envisioned was daring
and dangerous and could get me ejected from the Convention.
Having covered several National Conventions in years past, I knew
that there was one very dramatic shot that was always used on Page
One. On the last night, after the party finally decided whom their
presidential candidate would be, the candidate and his vice presidential
choice would mount the platform to tremendous hoopla and they would
stand at the front rail facing the huge, cheering throng as confetti
and balloons cascaded down from the rafters of the hall.
This was THE shot that I had to make. Of course, I had no credentials
to even get me into the hall, much less to a position to make a
dramatic shot. However, I had a plan to smuggle a camera and a
long lens up into the reporter’s section, high above and
just to the side of the dais. Newsday had an extra reporter’s
credential for that section. No cameras were allowed up there.
In desperation to try to get at least one creditable photograph
for the story, I taped a 300mm lens to my leg and stuffed a Nikon
body under my shirt. I got past the security and settled into a
reporter’s seat. I kept the camera hidden until the last
possible moment. If I was spotted by any of the numerous security
staff, I knew that I would be forcibly ejected from the building,
never to be allowed back in. But, Hell! This was the end of the
story. What did I have to lose. I wasn’t getting anything
usable as it was.
It took a lot of discipline not to start making photos once I had
smuggled my gear into position. I sat there, in a reporter’s
seat with my cameras stashed out of sight under my feet, as a number
of important personages stood at the dais to give last minute endorsements
to the nominee. I had a perfect angle. My 300mm would give me a
nice sized image and being slightly to the rear and side of the
dais the speakers were dramatically rim lit and I knew that some
of them would make the paper if only I dared bring out my hidden
camera. But, I dared not take the chance. I knew from past conventions
that the final hoorah at these affairs was when the nominee and
his running mate and their families were announced to the delegates.
The floor lights would dim and the nominees and families would
step to the front of the dais to the thunderous cheers of the crowd.
Spotlights would illuminate them. Balloons and confetti would fall
from the rafters of the hall. They would hold one another’s
hands and hold them high while delegates on the floor would cheer
and wave posters bearing the names of their chosen.
From where I was seated, I would have a perfect shot. The candidates
would be rim lit from the front and the delegates and their posters
would be visible in the background, as would the balloons and confetti.
I could come out of this debacle as a hero, with a Page One shot.
But, such was not to be. When the anticipated moment of truth arrived
and I grabbed my equipment and snapped on the 300mm lens and raised
it to my eyes and prepared to press the shutter button, huge American
Flags descended from above to form a backdrop for the nominees,
effectively shutting them off from view from my position. DAMMIT
ALL TO HELL!!!
I’m certain that they heard my profanity down on the floor,
even above the pandemonium that was taking place.
There were times when nothing you did went right. This was one
of those times.