Weathering the Storms of Impatience

tunnelweather©Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

I’m always on the lookout for interesting locations in Chicago, so a friend told me to check out a tunnel connecting underground train lines that go through the Loop. The vanishing point and the lights made for an interesting background, so like many situations, I waited for I-don’t-know-what to happen in order to make an interesting picture. Without a person of interest, the image is only valuable to a location scout. So I waited, and waited. I get self-conscious when being stared at within crowds of people, so waiting is not a lot of fun. When you’re standing in the middle of a crowd you get a ton of stares and often a few comments. But you also don’t want to give up early, or rationalize an early departure just to relieve discomfort. At some point, this masked figure came through. I looked at the screen at the back of my camera and thought, well, the totality of the image is surreal enough – there’s something storm-trooper-science-fictionish to it. And it piqued my visual interest more than anything else that morning.  So I went back to my day. It could have been just my rationalization talking, but judgment calls given limited time are a part of the business…

Caution at the Train Stop


©2009 Chicago Tribune

It is a sad reality of big cities that terrible crimes are often a fact of life. Following overnight news that a woman was sexually assaulted shortly after leaving this CTA train stop, I was sent to make a quick picture of the location. As the story grew throughout the day, my editor felt a more interesting picture was necessary to highlight its news value, so I went back out.  Photographing intangibles are normally not easy, so I was glad to find compelling light and this woman looking over her shoulder.  If it seemed too easy, it was.  As my editors pointed out, a newspaper can’t run a picture with the subjects faces clearly visible.  Viewers would be left with the impression that she’s a victim, even if the caption stated otherwise. That might sound too cautious, but if you were a commuter who was surprised to see your face plastered on the story, you’d probably appreciate it. So we went with another photo. It’s the kind of invisible decision that photo editors make several times a day on issues of taste, fairness, and news value – which are often taken for granted in the grand scheme of things…