Salt Lake City , Utah

Not Tripping the Shutter

September 11, 2001. A prayer for the dead, University of Utah.

The Columbia Journalism Review had an interesting piece Thursday about various approaches photojournalists took to photograph the Amish while covering the murder-suicide in Pennsylvania.Most of the photographers told of showing a certain amount of restraint, as photography is not acceptable to the Amish faith.

As I read that piece, I thought back to September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attack, every Tribune photographer was sent out to photographer. Everyone but me. My then-editor told me, “Looks like you’ll just have a slow day in the lab today.” Of course, I wasn’t going to sit around and relax. I went out to find a photo.

I went to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City. The church was holding a prayer service, opening its doors for people to come mourn for the as-yet-unknown number of victims at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. This was early in the afternoon of the attacks, and I can’t remember if Orrin Hatch had leaked that it was bin Laden yet.

It was a very uncertain time, and the church was filled with people who were in shock, confused, and, frankly, terrified. Being a photographer in this situation can be very difficult. The last thing you want to do is further upset people.

From the spot where I was allowed to be in, I wasn’t seeing the deep emotion I was after. The shots just weren’t there. Then a woman walked in and sat a couple rows behind me. She was flat-out bawling. Tears were streaming down her face. I was staring at an award-winning photograph waiting to be taken. It would clearly lead off my portfolio for the year. I quickly checked my camera settings and focus, then looked to her. I didn’t feel right taking her picture without her knowing I was there. She was too vulnerable.

After a moment she looked up through her tears. I made a gesture to the camera and then to her, asking permission non-verbally. She shook her head no, and was clearly distressed. I gestured back that I understood, and then DID NOT take the amazing, award-winning photograph that was right in front of me.

For the rest of the day I rushed around town looking for some kind of reaction to the terrorist attacks. Later that evening I found a group of students praying at the University of Utah. It was a nice moment, and one of those photographs made the paper.

September 11, 2001. A prayer for the dead, University of Utah.

But for weeks I thought about the woman in tears. Did I make the right decision? Should I have made the photograph even without her permission? I mean, this was history, right? I continually re-played the moment and thought about the decision I had made. One thing I realized, I had no idea if this woman was crying about 9/11; She could have been going through any number of personal issues. But I was still unsettled about it.

Weeks later I was talking to another Tribune photographer about everything that was happening in the wake of 9/11. I built up my courage and told the story of the photo I didn’t take. To my astonishment, rather than pitying me, my colleague had an identical story from the same day. He also had put down the camera on 9/11 while staring at a similarly emotional moment out of respect for the wishes of his subject. It was nice to know I wasn’t alone in putting someone’s well-being ahead of my portfolio.

To be perfectly clear, if I had been photographing on that day in New York City or Washington, I would have shot the photo without hesitation. That was history, and such an important story to tell. I feel the news value of the situation would have outweighed the intrusion had I been covering the physical impact of the event.

Photographing the impact in faraway Utah, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Maybe I was wrong, but this was different. Even without the photo I didn’t take, the story of 9/11’s impact on Utah was well told in pictures by me and many others.

September 11, 2001. A prayer for the dead, University of Utah.

Here’s the link to the CJR story on photographing the Amish.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

  • Post Category:Writing

Utah , United States

The Beetdiggers

So I’m photographing the Jordan Beetdiggers vs. the Alta Hawks High School basketball in January 2005. And since I shoot dozens of basketball games every year, I’m looking for a new angle. The game is in the fourth quarter, going down to the wire. I climb up to the top of the bleachers for a good shot from above of players reacting to victory or defeat.

Alta pulls ahead in the final moments and snatches the win on Jordan’s home court. One of the star players for Jordan pulls his jersey over his head in disgust and I photograph his reaction with a long lens.

It’s a nice storytelling image and runs in the paper the next day. Normally, that’s when the story ends.

But a few days later I’m looking at that picture and a memory is triggered. I realize that I took a similar shot in 2004. With a few keystrokes I pull up my shot from the year before.

I can’t believe it. This January 2004 shot was also taken at Jordan High School. It was taken from the same spot, top of the bleachers. It was even the same situation, a close loss for the Jordan Beetdiggers. Even more bizarre- it’s the same kid!

I never heard from Nick Howard, the player behind the jersey. I wonder what he thought, seeing that photo of his frustrated self two years straight. Once was probably enough.

Nick, I hope you have a good sense of humor.

  • Post Category:Writing

Murray , Utah

Murray Invitation

start of the boys race. Murray Invitation cross-country meet at Murray Park.

Bluffdale , Utah

Hurricane Katrina Evacuees

Frank Dalcour, Jr, waits to board a bus with his sisters, Tanaika Bettis (left) and Ricsyna Bettis (right) and parents (not shown). About 100 of the 600 or so evacuees housed at Camp Williams boarded buses to Dallas, Texas Wednesday evening. From Dallas, they will make they way to a variety of locations and reunite with friends and family members.

Bluffdale , Utah

Bus Driver

Greyhound Bus Line ticket-taker helping with Hurricane Katrina victims
  • Post Category:Outtakes

Colorado City , Arizona

Dairy Boys

Boys leaping on hay bales, Colorado City

Wellsville , Utah

The Americanas

The Americanas, a horse riding group performing at the Wild West Show at the Festival of the American West.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Regis Hotel

With the door to his room open for any extra breeze, Ronnie Mendez has a smoke in bed while watching the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” at Salt Lake City’s Regis Hotel.
Michael Whiteman, recently paroled after serving eleven years in prison for a murder he claims was self-defense, in his room at Salt Lake City’s Regis Hotel. Whiteman is attending paralegal classes at Salt Lake Community College and putting his life back together.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Project Bandaloop

Dancers from Project Bandaloop perform aerial acrobatics on the south face of the Salt Lake City downtown library, during a performance at the Utah Arts Festival Saturday evening.
Dancers from Project Bandaloop perform aerial acrobatics on the south face of the Salt Lake City downtown library, during a performance at the Utah Arts Festival Saturday evening. 6.25.2005

Fruit Heights , Utah


Looking down into a suburban neighborhood, Fruit Heights. Davis County project.

Fruit Heights , Utah


Suburban neighborhood, Fruit Heights. Davis County project. 04/06/2005

Utah , United States

The Nature Conservancy

the nature conservancy great salt lake sign bird shot up. Davis County project. 04/06/2005
  • Post Category:Outtakes