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:

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 photographers 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 paper.

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.

Dick Kraus



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