After more than 80 years experience as a photographer, amateur and pro, I’m still a bit under developed. I started when I was eight years old after winning a Kodak Brownie camera as a soapbox derby prize. My Dad said he’d pay for the first roll of film and developing, but after that, he said, I should be making enough money with the camera to cover expenses. I don’t blame Dad for his little fib. It was during the Depression when fifty cents would buy five loaves of Wonder Bread.
My plan was to take shots of exciting neighborhood events, sell them to the Hudson Dispatch newspaper and become famous. But the closest thing to exciting was when Mrs. Bockman, a rather stout young lady, got wedged in her chicken coop doorway. She raised an enormous howl and her chickens went beserk. Her frantic struggle left her house dress a bit askew and when I arrived with my Brownie, she begged me not to take a picture. So I didn’t.
But I’ll bet Mrs. Bockman and some editor would have been bidding against each other for my photo. My caption would have been, “Trapped attractive housewife threatened by fierce roosters saved by young photog”.
In later life, as a freelance reporter, editors soon learned to send professionals to shoot the pictures for my reports. However, sometimes I was handed a reflex camera, given confusing shutter speed instructions and told to do my best.
“Explain this picture!” one editor growled after I’d turned in my copy of a factory fire along with the film. “It looks like the firefighters are climbing over each othe and the highest one has two heads! This is definitely a double exposure.”
“That’s okay, Chief,” I said. “I’ll only charge you for a single.”
I eventually learned enough to turn in films with almost the correct settings, but they often failed to match the drama of the event. Crowd control became my problem.
“Your story’s okay, ” one editor said. “You’ve captured the urgency at the scene of the wreck and the sense of relief with no injuries, but these pictures you’ve turned in…. Every shot shows a group of happy people!”
“Come to think of it,” he said, “all your recent shots have included people smiling and waving like what you turned in last week with the crime penalty panel story.”
“Chief, I wanted to catch them in solemen deliberation. They’d been discussing death penalty sentences for days, but when I raised the camera the old guys started grinning and waving.”
” And what about this County Fair shot of the cooking contest winners? One of the women has a really sour face while the others are beaming.?”
“Chief, that’s Mrs. Bockman, a very old neighborhood friend of mine. She was unhappy because her “Chicken Coop de Tat” entry received only an honorable mention.”