Going Out

September 2003

by Simon P. Barnett, Newsweek
Photographs Ilkka Uimonen

N ewsweek Photo's biggest problem with the power outage was working in the knowledge that our main competitor, Time, was still working, relatively speaking, business as usual. Unlike Time, which we had heard was minimally affected and did not have to relocate, our office on West 57th Street in Manhattan went dark. And it remained that way until Friday afternoon.

The main challenge when our photo department hits 'crisis' mode is to see the work as it's coming in, and to bid on the important images first. Michelle Molloy, our Nation Photo Editor, is as good as they get in this regard. It's an extremely rare occasion that Michelle gets beat on a breaking news story; she's on the phones in an instant making deals. The blackout was no different. Michelle had secured exclusive coverage in every major city affected by the blackout before the sun went down. And when the sun did disappear the last people few left, the photo department was forced to evacuate the building, and walk the 15 floors down by the light of our waning flashlights.

On Friday morning, and still without power, we had established one satellite office at the Brooklyn home of Jamie Wellford, our International Photo Editor. Jamie worked the phones and kept tabs on the wires as Newsweek’s emergency plan was being finalized.

With a hastily arranged meeting early on Friday morning, I took stock of who was doing what and, with a simple brief, nominated as our road-warriors Bruce Jaffe and Myra Kreiman to set up another field photo dept. office somewhere, anywhere, in Manhattan. I chose Kreiman and Jaffe as the team to leave because they possessed the three most important qualities in a twosome—great eyes, resourcefulness, and experience. After trying and failing to set up shop in three Starbucks and one Kinko's, Jaffe called in a favor from an architect friend who was away on vacation, and started working in his Manhattan office, complete with hi-speed lines.

With Wellford up and working, and Kreiman and Jaffe dispatched, the rest of Newsweek’s staff was put on buses to Newsweek's emergency facility in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.

After a full day working as best we could in our Mountain Lakes location, and as most of the edit staff were heading home on Friday evening, the work for the Photo Dept. was just beginning. Earlier in the day I had promised our Managing Editor Jon Meacham a comprehensive picture show of the ‘Blackout’ at 8.30 am on Saturday. A dozen of the photo department assembled back at the office at around 8 pm and worked through to 4am to ensure that we met the deadline. (It always amazes me that when a breaking news story happens at Newsweek you always get more staff than you ask for. They just want to be a part of it - they’re kind of addicted. They cancel plans, organize babysitters and swarm the office like bees to honey or, like other less printable analogies.)

And I must admit, as an evening of entertainment goes, consisting of heated debate over pictures, audio provided by the hum of overworked laser printers, and a staff fueled by Thai food and beer I guess you could say we had fun.

One of the standout photography presentations was from Newsweek contract photographer, Ilkka Uimonen. Ilkka operates very much in his own universe. He gave one of our photo editors a late Thursday heads-up that he was "going out." Then, when finished, gave us an equally brief call to say he thought he'd "got something," -- an understatement befitting a man who communicates through images, not words. Ilkka's very personal black and white photo essay captured the mood of New York in darkness unlike anything else I've seen.

© Simon P. Barnett

Simon Barnett is the Director of Photography at Newsweek.

Enter Blackout - Going Out, photos by Ilkka Uimonen


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