The Scrum, by its very nature, is a fleeting, amorphous thing. Like a dust devil rising up from the desert floor, these swirling summits can take shape and dissipate before even the most seasoned ‘slinger can shoulder his rig. Personally, I hate them. Elbows bent, back strained, head cocked at the most untenable angle…I’d rather interrogate a mime than throw in on a little elbow fiesta. But TV news photogs don’t get to call the shots; only compose them. As much as most of us would prefer to frame our vignettes in a vacuum, newsgathering is and always has been a contact sport. Thus, if you’re not up for smelling what your cross-town competitor had for lunch, you may want to stick to polishing light bulbs in the studio. It’s safe in there, but rarely ever breathtaking.
Of course, stagehands don’t have to bum-rush the subjects of their close-ups. Nor do they have to avert their gaze and compartmentalize their feelings as wreckage smolders just off-screen. That’s just what was happening when the great beFrank snapped this shot of an impromptu debriefing at the scene of yesterday’s tragic F-18 crash down in San Diego. As pictures go, it’s pretty pedestrian - but if you’ve ever responded to such calamity, the image comes alive. I, for one, wonder what’s behind man in the middle’s gesture, how many batteries are in that photog’s knapsack and if first responder shouts and pesky backlight marred the shot. I guess that makes me more of a technician than a storyteller, but at least I know when to keep my eyes moving, my camera still and my mouth shut.
No matter how much my back hurts.