The choice between taking the same photograph as everyone else and standing back and getting something different becomes a matter of survival when you work on a weekly newspaper and the other five photographers around you will be publishing the next morning. Even if that weren’t the dilemma of every photo-call I go to, I like to think that as a photographer I am an individual. It’s a pretty useful mindset to sign up to, no matter how much or little photography you do.
This photograph of an elephant’s eye is a classic example of taking a mental step back from the herd and shooting something different. It is also an advertisement for having more than one camera with different lenses on. There were five other photographers at the job. The story was about this young Indian elephant who paints pictures, and about how he was being used to launch an environmental art competition for schoolchildren. We were all trying to make the same picture of the elephant, three kids, some paint and an easel. The composition was looking messy, and there were just too many elements in it. We all had 16-35 lenses on and were getting nowhere. I was getting nowhere faster than the other five who would all go to press that night leaving me with two more days during which the story could easily get scrapped without a strong image. My second camera had my 70-200 on it and I grabbed it, zoomed in and the picture almost took itself. Strong, arresting, different and wide open for headline writers to do their thing. Just about every base covered. I shot some of a paint brush in the elephant’s trunk too, but this was the picture chosen.
When an image is competing for space on a newspaper page it has to stand out. The enlightened editors at our papers allow images to arouse the reader’s interest and don’t insist that photographs tell the whole story all of the time. This approach works on every level, from the family album through e-mailed postcards to published images. Getting in close works.
See also: MINDSET FOR NEWS PHOTOGRAPHERS