I’ve cried behind the viewfinder before.
Shooting pictures of people who are suffering has never been my favorite. Frankly, it’s always an uncomfortable assignment.
But if we’re accurately reflecting our community through photography, we will show both tragedies and triumphs. I prefer the triumphs — the happy moments — but to do the job fairly, a newspaper photographer will do it all.
This year I learned how it feels to be the subject of a newspaper article after my son was involved in a bicycle versus car accident.
So why do we do it? What is the socially redeeming value of shooting pictures and publishing pictures and stories that tell tragic tales? It’s important you know that it’s not to sell more newspapers.
It’s because the lives of people in our community matter. I’ve been thanked after covering a soldier’s funeral and told how much it meant to the family that we would take the time to do a story.
It’s because part of our job is bringing awareness of dangers that exist in our community. I asked a former photography editor why we were running a drowning victim’s photo across five columns on the front page. “People need to understand the importance of water safety,” was his reply.
It’s because the best way to communicate compassion for those caught in tragic situations is to shoot and publish pictures in a respectful and honest way that show people who are hurting, and in some cases, the people who have come to help.
In the coming new year, though, I always hope to cry a little less often behind the viewfinder. Here’s wishing you a safe new year.