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Stranger Than Fiction
By: Karl M Ferron

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Friday, 23-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
From Ethics to Photos.

Down and Out
I was going to write at first about the kinds of images that we in the pro field wind up shooting, but I decided to write about ethics, which has come to the forefront over the past year. Jayson Blair (NY Times). Jack Kelley (USA Today). Brian Walski (Los Angeles Times photographer). These were regarded as respected journalists covering stories for organizations that preach about accuracy. Yet deceptions continued without any checks and balances. News organizations IMPO need to be more hands- on with regard to how their correspondents gather information. Obviously there is a MASSIVE problem, and these incidents are what was actually caught. What about the ones who are still reporting? Photographing? What happened to the policy on journalism ethics? If it's policy, it must be enforced. So, who is entrusted to enforce this?

I've been told that editors should have to trust their reporters. But is this just the story of the cat in the house? Well, the housecat has turned a back while the mice are roaming freely. We aren't computers who can be programmed to report only the facts as much as we are driven to get the most compelling stories. What goes on the front page is the most intriguing news of the day. The placement of an article or photo many times depends on the level of human interest. I have no problem if an editor or other photographer wants to pull my shoot of any assignment I've covered. The only thing I may be embarrassed about is the amount of OOF photos, because I leave the raw take completely in, unless I have exceeded the CD size of 700 MB. Sometimes, I even pull someone's negatives. I follow my gut instincts, what my editor Bob calls, "Spider sense." If my spidersense is tingling about the story or subject I'm covering, if I feel a photo seems TGTBT, I start to look further. I sometimes call myself Pitbull, because I don't let go until I'm satisfied. I was going to write "I'm sorry" for how I feel like I'm ranting, but I'm not sorry. The ones who deceive you and who deceive their colleagues should apologize to you and to me for even having to question which photo is believable and which is staged. I don't mind at all telling my editors that there aren't any compelling photos, or that a story sucks raw eggs. If they don't like it, I'll make issue with that editor and question his or her news judgement. In a heartbeat I would. One problem is that we visualise the most dramatic scene behind anything we hear, if we believe what could be unfolding. The problem can begin if someone just knows that something must happen, and then they expect the shooter and writer to document that. That's when the open- minded approach stops. That's when journalists put blinders on and see what they feel is the only thing out there. And then they can ignore what could be a more realistic account of what is happening. I love the job. I smile and act like a kid when I'm out covering things. But my ears perk when I hear anything that needs to be questioned. People know where I'm coming from and where I stand on this. For family photos, snapshots, whatever, have fun. I shoot like that too. But in my job, when I'm covering an event, I stick to my guns. Anyone who questions my work (and I truly welcome it, because I have nothing to hide) will see my approach. They won't see things being redone. They won't see missing files that can hide cover-ups. They can take my Sandisks and recover images and see how I approach my craft. Honestly, I wish that editors did this more often in our profession.

Okay, this image was actually shot last year, 2003. I was burned a couple months before when I failed to try mounting a remote above the ring at a heavyweight title bout in Las Vegas. And I don't forget, but learn from my mistakes, so when the opportunity came to do this at Michael's Eighth Av in Glen Burnie for Ballroom Boxing, I jumped. I pushed the editors to give me some leadtime to get there early, so a couple hours before fight time, I got in, mounted a Nikon D1 and a 17-35mm with a Pocket Wizard receiver right above the ring in the low drop ceiling. All night, and no one was knocked down, but this was the final fight! It ended on a knockout, and boy, did I get my picture. You see distortion in the standing people, but like I said, it was a very low ceiling by the time a ring was installed in a ballroom. Available light, about 1/125th sec @ 2.8, ISO 400.

Thursday, 22-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
My first digilog post!

Testing Isabel
Thursday, my "Friday" at work! I have two assignments, taking pictures of people eating and then shooting a weekday nightclub somewhere in town. Isabel may be old news for some, but I post it today because Chesapeake AP gave it first place for spot news photography. Shot with a D1H protected with raingear. ISO 200 and a 17-35mm lens in southern Maryland overlooking Chesapeake Bay. All day, a reporter and I dispatched there to document the hurricane for our newspaper scoured all over Calvert County, looking for people in the storm as it grew in strength. After she and I split up, I drove down a small road that ended at the western shoreline of the bay to see plenty of people watching the developing surf. I waited, deciding not to announce who I was and saw this woman brave the environment to get a close look at Isabel's power. Try writing anyone's name in a storm like this! I think her name was Helga Hertlein... We didn't run this until that weekend and it ran in low- contrast B&W. But the photo late last year was included in Time magazine's Pictures of the Year, running color doubletruck. Someone asked me if I felt angry that I didn't get paid for the mag's usage. Ask any shooter how they'd feel if their photo was published worldwide completely across two pages (with no white border) in Time magazine and see how they'd respond! Well, gottagobye. Just remember: Shoot first; ask questions later.


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