and ‘the moment’
In a little more than an hour, the presenters of a workshop on taking photos at the scene of emergencies not only advised audience members about the basics of how to get the best shots, but reminded them of the important emotional power such photography conveys.
John Voket, associate editor at the Newtown (Conn.) Bee, introduced himself and the other two speakers, and asked the audience about their own experience with emergency-scene photography. Many audience members were photographers at New England newspapers, and others were interested news staff members in other jobs.
Voket suggested the audience hear the experiences of the other two presenters, Jeremy Rodorigo and Chris Christo, as photographers through the years at many emergency scenes.
They spoke at the workshop Saturday, Feb. 11, at the New England Newspaper and Press Association winter convention in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. About 15 people attended the workshop, titled “Working the scene -- Capturing compelling emergency incident photography while building better rapport with emergency responders.”
Christo, photo editor at the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., talked about how he got started as a photographer years ago, and summarized the events at a few of his most memorable scenes. Christo displayed a slide show of his Pulitzer-Prize finalist photos from the aftermath of a 1999 fire at an abandoned Worcester warehouse that killed six firefighters.
The images showed rows and rows of firefighters walking along a street in procession, people holding one another as the firefighters walked by, and flags displayed as a memorial tribute around the destroyed warehouse.
Christo stressed how crucial it is for photographers to do everything they can to get the image that best captures the scene for readers while still staying safe and not disturbing the scene.
The three presenters gave the audience tips from their experience, such as having someone at the local fire station call you when the station is responding to an emergency so you can be one of the first on the scene.
“The old adage used to be F8 and be there,” Christo said, referring to a saying of photojournalists about worrying less about technical details than about getting to the scene. “Well, now it’s more like iPhone and be there.”
Rodorigo, a volunteer emergency medical technician, firefighter and freelance photographer from Beacon Falls, Conn., has the perspective of having worked both sides of emergency scenes. He reminded members of the audience that their photojournalism is a public service for readers.
“I understand that you need a good shot, and I want you to get a good shot, believe me. Because one, it’s delivering the news for the people, but it’s also letting the people know that their tax dollars are being well spent because their public services are doing a good job. As long as you’re safe and can get a good shot, I will bring you into the scene,” Rodorigo said.
Rodorigo and Christo reminded the audience of the importance of communicating with emergency personnel, and asking questions such as, “Where do you want us?” Working together is the key to building trust, so emergency personnel understand your role at the scene and can help you to the best of their abilities, Christo said.
Rodorigo showed a photo he took while helping deliver supplies to Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and there was another collapse of rubble. As rescue workers fled the site, he turned around and snapped a photo of the chaos, a shot that was later published in his local newspaper.
Rodorigo said the reason he was able to capture the moment was that he was in the right place at the right time with his camera, and he thought quickly on his feet.
Christo discussed knowing when to put away your press credentials, to be treated instead like a civilian at a scene.
“You really have a disadvantage if they know you’re working for the press,” he said. “It’s very different now. (There are a) lot of citizen journalists.”
Christo reminded members of the audience to keep practicing with their camera, so that they can be sure that once they get in the right spot, they get the perfect shot.
“It comes down to experience,” he said. “You really have to test your technical limits of your equipment. The other thing too with digital photography that makes a big difference is the learning curve is instantaneous. You shoot something and you know if you got it or not.”
'I understand that you need a good shot, and I want you to get a good shot, believe me ... As long as you’re safe and can get a good shot, I will bring you into the scene.'
-- Jeremy Rodorigo,
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