Before “smart” phones, before people carried a camera of sorts always and everywhere, serious photographers paid a lot of attention to how a picture was composed.
What was going to show in the picture? Were there distracting elements that took away from main focus of the photo?
A famous news photograph of the Kent State University massacre on May 4, 1970, showed a woman kneeling by the body of one of the four students killed early that Monday afternoon by panicked troops of the Ohio National Guard. Photographer John Filo shot the picture, which won him that year’s Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography.
A powerful photo of one of the many tragedies arising from the Vietnam War.
Unfortunately, there appeared to be a fence post sticking up from the head of the young woman kneeling by the dead student. It was a miniscule flaw. The Pulitzer committee certainly made the right call when they awarded Filo the prize.
In 1970, Tom “Snooky” Potts, a fine newspaper photographer, was then trying to teach me how to take news pictures. He looked very critically at the composition, exposure, depth of field, etc. of every picture I shot with my first ever Nikon. I remember Tom commenting on the unfortunately located fence post in Filo’s Pulitizer prize picture. Of course, Snooky never won a Pulitzer for news photography, nor did I.
Anyway, I did learn from Tom Potts to try to compose photographs in my imagination before I snapped the shutter.
Rescued by a self-framing photograph
Resting on one of the Norma French benches under the arbor on the north side of Bankhead Street Wednesday evening, Aug. 27, I was thinking about how viciously divided the country is today, perhaps even more bitterly than during the Vietnam era.
I was rescued from my pessimism when I realized I was looking at a potential photograph with several interesting elements – including the fact that it had its own ready-made frame.
The elements included Old Glory snapping in a brisk breeze, an interesting expanse of modern architecture, and, in the left upper background, the golden eagle atop the dome of the Union County Courthouse.
The flag is essentially the same design as that adopted by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, same alternating red and white stripes, except now 50 stars instead of thirteen.
The eagle topped out the courthouse dome 132 years later in June, 1909.
The bank building was built half a century ago, early 1970s.
Sam Creekmore IV spear-headed the pocket park idea after learning that an outdoor sculpture, “Swamp Flower” was available. The arbor was in the spring of 2017, thus creating the ready-made frame for my picture. Thank you, Sam.
Finally, I gotta admit: I shot the photo with my iPhone. The Nikon, now a digital contraption much smarter than I am, rarely comes out of the bag anymore.
Tom Potts is now 87 years old and still living in Missouri. I have not talked to him in 40 years. Maybe I should call and ask Snook if he still thinks it is heresy to shoot a photograph with anything but a Nikon SLR using Kodak 400 ASA film.
The Pocket Park and Arbor: https://www.nemiss.news/swamp-flower-now-blooms-in-downtown-new-albany/Kent State, New Albany MS, Northeast MS news, Pocket Park, Swamp Flower, Tom “Snooky” Potts