Victoria, TX



By T.C. Baker
 Staff Photographer
Victoria Advocate
Victoria, TX

This is a question that seems to go through all of our minds, or at least all the photojournalist I have spoken with about the subject.
In a time when we have young men and women sacrificing their lives in places far away, I sometimes feel the daily grind of working at a mid-size paper is, well, pointless. Does it really benefit anyone for me to try to make a compelling Pet of the Week photo?
I have had the pleasure of meeting many photographers that frequent the exotic, remote and dangerous assignments we all crave at one point in our careers, most notably of late, Rick Loomis.
NPPA Publications Director Donald Winslow introduced me to Rick at the NPPA Annual Convention in Chicago. Rick was being featured in the June 2003 News Photographer Magazine for being named NPPA's Newspaper Photographer of the Year. I even asked for him to autograph my copy of that magazine.
More recently, Rick wrote a dispatch for the SportsShooter newsletter/e-zine, explaining his coverage of
Iraq for the Los Angeles Times ( I must admit, this is probably what brought the thoughts of my worthiness to mind.
Here is Rick in Iraq, questioning if he is going to make it out alive, all the while taking pictures to show the rest of the world what it is like on the battlefields. I, on the other hand, am shot pet of the week photos today.
Don't get me wrong, I am not comparing my photographic abilities to that of Rick or the other fine folks covering such assignments. I like the security offered to me stateside and not having to risk ever seeing my wife and two
boys ever again for a single photo. The question that bounces in my head is, " Does the job I am doing here really affect anyone?"

© Photo by T.C. Baker

"to T.C. thank you for the flowers they smell very good thank you for watching me in the play annie And thank you for my pictune in the paper."

Luckily for me, that question was answered today by a lovely, hand-written card from a 7-year-old type-1 diabetic named Alyssa Sternadel.
The card was thanking me for coming to see her performance in a local theater production. The card was thanking me for the flowers I gave her after the show. The card was thanking me for using a photograph in the paper that included her.
Granted, I did not take Alyssa flowers simply because I had used a photograph of her from the production. I met Alyssa a couple of years ago when I started working on a personal photo project about diabetes. I have spent numerous hours with Alyssa and her family at home, school and dance classes. And although her mother promises me she can be just as trying as any other adolescent, I have yet to witness it. Courageous barely comes close to describe this little girl I have come to know quite well. I down right admire this 7-year-old for the strength she has displayed in her situation.
Actually, it seems quite selfish of me to think at these times, does my work affect others, when I should be looking at how the lives I have been privileged enough to see and capture with my camera can affect me. Had it not been for Alyssa being in the production, I probably would have let my wife take a friend to the show.

© Photo by T.C. Baker, Staff Photographer, Victoria Advocate

Alyssa's mother Pam adjusts her daughter's insulin pump as Alyssa sticks her tongue out to show off a Fruit Roll-up Tongue Tattoo.

© Photo by T.C. Baker, Staff Photographer, Victoria Advocate

Alyssa Sternadel, blue dress, practices for "Annie" alongside other "orphan" cast members. (This is the photo I was thanked for by Alyssa.)

© Photo by T.C. Baker, Staff Photographer, Victoria Advocate

It seems the cutest and/or most unusual pets are more likely to be adopted.

And I guess the pet photos do make a difference, as all three of the local shelters featured tell us about the numerous calls they receive after the photos run.

Timothy C. "T.C." Baker
Staff Photographer
Victoria Advocate
Victoria, TX
NPPA Treasurer/Executive Committee Member



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