I was traipsing through the wreckage a church’s flooded basement today, when I sensed the presence of a competitor. This was no ‘disturbance in the force’ mind you - just a gnawing, knowing sense that predators were on the horizon. Call it photog intuition. I’m calling it Tuesday. Anyway, not wanting to let alarm my prey, I kept quiet, picking my way past the muddy hot dog buns and overturned card-tables as the church deacon pointed out a stack of hymnals caked in brown dirty goop. Happy to be hunting in such a target rich environment, I wrestle my tripod into a suitable squat and opened up the camera’s iris. When it rains it pours, I thought. I was grimacing at the pun, when I heard it - the tell-tale crunch of a white Ford Explorer’s muddy tires on the gravel driveway outside. Knowing the sound of a news unit on final approach, I urged my kindly host to go ahead and show me the pastor’s study.
There was little need to be hasty. The stagnant flotsam of Mount Carmel Baptist Church’s basement space boasted enough indelible images for a dozen news crews. Having already had twenty pristine minutes to poke about the carcass on my own, I would have been mad to expect my canvas wouldn’t soon become crowded. So I kept moving, bagging shot after shot of broken news frozen: the shoulder-high water line on the Sunday School door, a brand new TV lying face-down in the muck, the bloated funk of a ruined food bank…images unavailable at the County Commissioners meeting. No, to wish denial of such a prize on any working crew is strictly bush league and simply not how I roll. Thanking the deacon for his time and access, I took back my wireless microphone and informed him my doppelgangers were at the door.
In the end, it was no rival Highlander crossing the church’s threshold - no fallen Jedi duo come to acrobatic battle. Rather, it was a crew from WDBJ in nearby Lynchburg, working their own deadline and wondering what the Greensboro guy was doing in Danville. Not bothering to explain, I gathered my tools and smiled benignly as a tall stranger with a broadcaster’s booming voice poked his over-combed head into the basement and bellowed a hello. Behind him the silhouette of a female photojournalist hove into view, her piercing white on-camera light announcing the arrival of yet another news crew. “Show ‘em the pastor’s study” , I said before leaving the deacon standing there in the muck. As he welcomed his new visitors in for a spell, I fished out my digital camera and documented my retreat. Popping off a few shots of photojournalist Andrea DiRocco at work, I stopped just before she thought to ask what the hell I was doing.
I'n not sure how I would have answered her...