digital photography is a wonderful thing. Push the shutter and you immediately know if you got the photo you wanted. And if you didn’t, shoot again.
But what if it’s, oh, 1983, and there’s a blizzard and you work for a newspaper and you’re on a deadline? And photography is still capturing images on film, not knowing for sure what you have until you’ve immersed the negative in three or four different chemical baths?
How did you know you got the photo you wanted?
“You hoped you had the photo you wanted,” said John Dixon, photo editor at The News-Gazette who has been taking pictures for the newspaper since the 1970s.
To be sure, even with film, N-G photographers had an idea when they pushed the shutter. This is how they keep the roof over their head and food on the table. But winter makes for interesting days at work, and film compounded the potential for problems.
“Shooting in extreme cold weather is always difficult,” Dixon said. “You’re distracted by the conditions you’re shooting in.”
Not to mention the mechanical problems that could crop up: Film could get brittle and break “and you might not know it,” Dixon said. Batteries (for flash and auto-winders) lost their charge quickly in the cold.
That makes the photos in this week’s archive at news-gazette.com even more impressive, shot as they were in the middle of bitter cold, heavy snow and biting winds.
Black-and-white is surely a misnomer. The shading between those extremes is what makes these photos. They show a genuine beauty in desolation. They use patterns to draw your eyes along. Some make a simple object into an objet. And without question, they show the sheer force of nature.