Saturday, August 14, 2010

Float Like a Bee...

Take on Blake

Suspended without pay after accusing his department of racism, Greensboro Police Officer A. J. Blake finds himself the talk of the town. Me - I'd never heard of him. Then again, I don't watch a lot of news. Never have, really. Oh, there was a time in the Nineties when I'd flip back and forth, but these days I'm more apt to blast some Lonnie Mack than sample an actual newscast. I get enough of that at work. Even there, I dodge top stories like a deadbeat Dad. (You might too, once you've quizzed more victims than you can remember.) Long ago I swore to use what little power my lenses packed for Good, not Evil. I didn't go out and buy any Lycra, mind you but over the years I did learn to leap the assignment desk in a single bound. Even today, you'll find me at the back of the broadcast, where froth trumps atrocity and live truck keys rust on the hook.

But that's not what I logged in to talk about.

No, I merely wanted to explain how a seasoned photojournalist can find him (or her) self backpedaling across a parking lot, not entirely sure which gentleman he (or she) should sic his (or her) lens on. That's exactly what's happening in the above fuzzy frame. That's me screen-right: lips pursed, feet a flutter, miniature lens pointed at Officer Blake...Well, his attorney, anyway. Truth is, at the time I didn't know A. J. Blake from A. J. Foyt. Seconds earlier, I'd been lounging on the lawn outside the Police Department, joking with a certain still photographer about the low energy level of the half dozen protestors when a clamor erupted behind us. Actually it was just the scuffle of a competing news crew, but since photogs don't move like that without a damn good reason, I scrambled to my feet and joined the chase...

...Where I found three distinguished individuals doing their best to get from one building to the next. I fell in before them, matching their pace stride for backward stride, all the while zooming out wide enough to claim the person at the center of my lens was in fact the dude I was meaning to shoot. 'Perhaps I should have watched the news last night' I did not think. I did, however, ponder the context of the protest I'd been sent to, searched my limited memory banks for all related data and triangulated the gait of the photog beside me - who assumedly knew the appearance of his quarry. I'd like to say my mental acuity led me to center in with certainty, but to be honest a crosstown colleague noticed my vexed expression and rather mercifully said...

"Brown shirt."

That's all it took. I zoomed in on the younger man like I knew who he was all along, hoping to keep him in focus long enough to fill the opening moments of the very next newscast. Hey, just because I specialize in fluff doesn't mean I've forgotten how Hard News works. What ever Z-block fodder I'd foist upon viewers later in the day wouldn't mean diddly if the opening moments of the show didn't feature the man who was only a few yards away vanishing behind a heavy metal door. So I stepped up my game, hopped over a cement planter and wedged myself between the dude and his destination. As he passed by me, Blake and my camera made direct eye-contact. No telling what he was thinking as he peered into my lens, but had he been able to se into my head he would have found nothing but love for the unnamed accomplice who tipped me off to his identity. Next time I see the guy I'll be sure to thank him myself...

Provided I recognize him.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Men at Werk

Consonant Flop
As blunders go, it was pretty mundane: a misplaced stencil, a hurried work crew, a distracted applicator... but no matter how pedestrian the elements of this error were, the resulting hubbub has been nothing short of galactic. And I missed it. That's right, when a local road crew effed up the S Word, I was off covering something totally dull. By the time I returned to El Ocho, evidence of the spray-painted typo adorned the bulletin board. I caught sight of it and promptly harrumphed, but then I moved on quickly, unaware that the foolish SHCOOL sign was not just the latest web flotsam to wash ashore, but was actually laying in the middle of the road just a few miles away. But while I lounged in an edit bay, others pounced.

Citizens, news crews, still photographers and a stoner or two. All rushed to the spot where the consonants flip-flopped. A great gawking began. But as with everything these days, the rubberneckers aren't the only ones to enjoy the view. For every smart-ass that showed up to gloat, a camera or smart phone came along for the ride. Soon both pros and amateurs alike were foisting their lenses at the sun-baked flub and squeezing 'til their fingers tingled. You probably know the rest. The pixelated image of this lowly spot bounced across the heavens, as newspapers, websites and more than few TV stations clamored to capitalize on one road crew's orthographic error. Little could they know when they laid down the paint, they'd provide fodder for the (inter)national consciousness.

Not bad for a handful of guys who can't spell.