THROUGH A LENS DIMLY
MARKING YOUR TERRITORY
Sometimes we behave like a pack of animals. Some of us get very proprietary about our territory. While we don't lift our legs to pee on trees and things to mark the perimeters of our zone some of us have been known to curl back our upper lip, bare our fangs and growl when another photographer dares to intrude.
"Waddaya mean shooting the Mill Pond in Roslyn for a floater? Doncha' know that's my territory?"
That wasn't meant to be a question. That snarled statement was a warning, every bit as agressive as a male dog snarling at another male dog trying to horn in on his bitch. Only this was coming from a normally polite female photographer on the staff when she spotted "her" Mill Pond in the paper with my credit line under it.
By the way, a floater in Newsday is any photo that doesn't attach to a story and can "float" to any position in the paper where space needs to be filled. See http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0611/assign/dk_tald0611.htm
Newsday covers a lot of square mileage. Our main coverage areas are the two largest counties; Nassau and Suffolk. In the past twenty or so years that has expanded to include much of the New York City Metropolitan areas of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
For many years our main office was in Nassau County with a large bureau office in Suffolk. Most of the Photo Staff was assigned to Nassau and some to Suffolk. Rarely did a photographer stray from one county to another. It was all about Territories. In the days before we had offices across the City Line in Queens and Manhattan, woe to the editor who tried to send Cliffy over that Line. Cliffy would howl in protest. It was almost as if he were being asked to cover a story in a foreign country. Cliffy had a territory and it was Nassau.
"I don't have a passport to go across the border," he would exclaim. "My car won't work across the line!" "If you insist on sending me, how do you know that I'll be able to find my way back?" "I don't have a Queens map." "Do they speak English in that part of the world?" "Why don't you send Kraus? He doesn't mind going to new and exotic places?"
Sometimes Cliffy just had to go. He always found his way back. He wasn't lazy or trying to get out of assignments. He would cover anything you gave him; as long as it was in Nassau.
And, actually, he was right about one thing. I didn't mind crossing boundaries. I didn't want a territory. I wanted to be a man without a territory. I wanted to be a "Photographer sans Frontiers." A photographer without borders. If a good news story broke or a good feature story came up, I didn't want an editor saying, "We can't send Kraus. He's a Nassau Photographer."
Of course, that works both ways. I was also sent across borders to cover more than my share of crappy stories.
Having a territory did have one very good side. A photographer with a territory got to know the geography, the streets, the infrastructure and the politics. You got to know the people and they got to know you. You could build up a rapport and you would get news tips and cooperation that outsiders weren't privy to. If an editor needed to get you up to North Hempstead Town Hall in a hurry, he didn't have to give you a street address and directions. You knew the territory.
Me? I needed directions to everything. I never spent enough time in one place to get that familiar. But, I did get to see a lot of neat places.
Have camera; will travel. I liked that.
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