I was a vulture today. At least that was the term used by a police officer. He and I were both watching a group of television cameramen and reporters surround a couple as they left the scene of a triple murder in the suburbs. I wasn’t a part of the group, although I easily could have been. I had been photographing people’s reactions, such as the man above in what was a very heartbreaking scene. Even though I was out there with everyone else, waiting to find whatever tidbit of information we could find, I didn’t see a picture in that one mob so stepped away. So the officer muttered “…vultures..”, and truth be told, I saw it too. At face value, either in movies or in real life, it is ugly. And I struggle with it. There is another side, of course. If there were no photos to show the emotion of a scene, news such as this would have less capacity to arouse the body politic to action, and to ask countless questions that urgently matter, such as, is the killer on the loose? Was the home invasion random or part of a pattern? Is the community safe? Emotional pictures are like an alarm bell to pay-attention-to-this-one. They encourage connection, empathy, concern, and hopefully action. Having said that, there is such a thing as too much. Both in process and result. Invasive. Gratuitous. Insensitive. I’m sure there are countless stories of this, and I won’t seek to defend them. I’m not alone in trying to balance the need to get information out quickly, with the need to respect someone’s emotional space in a public setting. My television colleagues have pressures that I don’t fully appreciate, but those I respect also struggle with it. Perhaps I should take the advice of a different police officer who said later, “you’re just doing your job.” In the end, this post is not meant to be a confession, a defense, or an appeal for absolution. It’s just a statement of fact. I felt like a vulture today. And I’ll never get used to it.
©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia
When this photo blog (almost 100 posts ago) first got going last year, I wasn’t quite sure what kind of pictures to post, and whether I could keep up the quality of the images on a regular basis. As I have been looking back at the last year, I think it was a mistake not to include this image from a Boys and Girls Club event. It had a community journalism feel to it, and I was wanting to create a different vision or look for the photo blog. But what has emerged over time through the blog is a desire to have images that can connect and uplift with you the readers. In doing so, it helps me to be inspired. Given some of the negative stuff that comprises news, I think most of us news consumers need a steady dose of positivity. The activities of the Boys and Girls Clubs are very inspiring, and the fun expressions of these boys was fun to experience and to photograph.
©Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia
Have you ever really looked forward to meeting someone, only to get off on the wrong foot immediately? I was recently sent to shoot a special preview of Xoco, the new restaurant by Rick Bayless, with the understanding that I would photograph him and arrange a shoot at his house for a future Sunday story. My wife and I have both enjoyed his show, so I was looking forward to this unique opportunity. I arrived and didn’t want to disturb him as he worked so I started photographing the scene above with the assumption that all was arranged. Once we made eye contact, however, it was as if I had crashed a party. He hadn’t gotten the message about exactly what I was doing, and was justifiably concerned that photos of his dishes would get passed around the internet before they had been finalized for the grand opening. Very understandable, so after we came to an understanding everything went fine – although I still felt like a paparazzi... Unfortunately, or maybe it was all for the best, the later pictures at his home had to be reassigned to someone else because of a scheduling conflict…alas, these things happen…:-)
©2009 Chicago Tribune
Fridays are some of the best days for photographing street life in the city. People are out, relaxed, looking toward the weekend and in this case, “wearing torso”…. I was stopped at a light on Madison on the west side on a recent Friday when I saw this man out my rear passenger window. I’ve often thought of assembling a collection of photos taken out my car window between assignments, since I often don’t have time to stop in places that call out for pictures. It’s interesting that in that brief traffic moment, while he was in a conversation and I was a casual observer, he had a moment of quiet reflection. You don’t expect to see that on a busy, noisy street. There was also something very photographable about the light, body gesture, accessories and ennui that had the feel of a billboard ad for jeans – a fashion that years from now will go out of style, but is ubiquitous for the moment…
For the Chicago area and our economy, it seems like there’s always the threat of more rain. Occasionally to this column I’ll be publishing flashback photos – pictures that represent a timeless Chicago and that most of my blog readers have never seen. This scene was from a July in which I found myself on LaSalle Street for an unexpected downpour. The humorous aspect of this picture is that I was trying to keep ahead of this businessman to frame him within the street yet he kept speeding up at the sound of my footsteps. He didn’t look back, and so couldn’t have known who I was. But he pressed ahead more quickly. Perhaps his healthy paranoia of the unknown is a useful commodity in today’s business world!:-)
I often liken the process of seeing pictures to painting a canvas, where you find a background and hope to align lighting, moment and composition to create a cohesive image that has the impact of all these factors. In this case, it occurred with a simple moment at my family’s cabin. I turned to my left, and before I heard my wife (also a photographer) say “take a picture!” I was bringing my camera to my eye to capture my son in an honest, albeit goofy:-), moment.