Thursday, March 24, 2011

Glassing the Assassin

Far Side of Crazy 3

Hank Brown was there to spray the place, not witness a ripple in history. But that's exactly what he bagged on March 30, 1981, when a young John Hinckley reached down into a very dark place and pulled out a pistol. Brown was thirty two and a Vietnam vet the day ABC paid him to wait outside the Washington Hilton. He and the other lenslingers in attendance weren't expecting much more than a wave from the newly elected President. What they got was shot at immortality, though they couldn't have known then that the next few seconds would hiccup into infinity, looping back on itself forevermore on a distant invention called the web. When Hank Brown saw the bodies fall and the gunman crumple, he kept clear of his own trigger, letting the RECORD light shine in the corner of the screen as as chaos spilled onto the street. It wasn't easy...
"I had to keep telling myself, 'Hank, do your job. Keep rolling. If you do it, it will help ABC and the police..."
He was right. The evidence Brown (and others) provided helped a nation grasp the unimaginable and it set in motion the notion that America's fortieth President was made of more than flesh and bone. That's still being debated, but one thing's been certain for thirty years now. Hank Brown stepped up and stood history down. Will YOU be as ready?


Amanda said...

Whats sort of ironic is how much time has changed. If this shooting had taken place five decades earlier, Brown would have been an internationally known household name among the general public.

These days, he'll be lucky to be named as a footnote in Regan biographies if not listed as just "an ABC cameraman."

Miami Fan said...

LOL I used to have one of those baby blue ABC jackets years ago!

I too remember the shooting. Even watched the interviews they did with Hank Brown right after the event on Nightline.

I always thought his work was well done. A perfect example of being at the right place, at the right time, and then following through by capturing the event.

I've known other photogs, when finding themselves in similar situations, who had the chance to "do it right" and failed.

Yes, he was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time but then he made it pay off. I can think of several folks who became a deer in headlights, missing the reality instead of reacting and doing the job.

Inspector Clouseau said...

It's about what we call being a professional.

arky said...

Since that link is broken, I'll step up and give credit to NBC's Shelly Feilman and CBS' Charlie Wilson (both also barely visible in that picture) for doing the same thing that day.

I should also mention that Hank's still shoving glass for ABC in the DC bureau. Just a few days ago, he was the U.S. pool camera for Hillary Clinton's trip to Europe. Shelly's still around, too.