Friday, August 14, 2009

CJR Q&A with Damon Winter of the NY Times

I've had some rough days back at work after a vacation before, but nothing like what Damon Winter went through Tuesday. His first assignment back from vacation was a town hall meeting with Sen. Arlen Specter. The photo that led the Times' A section Wednesday morning was a photo of a very angry Craig Miller confronting the senator on the meeting's format. (To respect the Times' copyright, I won't repost it here.)

In an interview with Columbia Journalism Review's Alexandra Fenwick, Winter, who won the Pulitzer Prize this year in Feature Photography for his work covering President Obama's campaign, talks about the event and his approach to shooting it. What struck me was the level to which he prepared himself for what was probably going to happen, going so far as to watch video of prior town hall meetings with the senator. He was also prepared for how the crowd had been taking over events like these and intentionally getting into the photographers' lenses to get their point across, not to mention the less-than-warm welcome he and another Times photographer received.

I've often talked about preparedness with other photographers, but usually only in a sports environment. So many things are out of a photographer's control, especially at a sporting event, that advance preparation is crucial. Is the team's offense primarily a passing or running offense? Who are the major players? Do they do trick plays? How about the pitcher? What are his stats this year? Does he lead the league in strikeouts? Give up a lot of home runs? Does he have a good pickoff move? All of these questions can be answered long in advance, and give me a hint as to what might be a key photograph.

Being prepared can make all the difference when the storytelling moment happens, whether at a football game or a town hall meeting.

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