“Let me photograph…”
Dateline: … The Fan
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”
— Robert Frank
And so there they stood.
From Alabama, from Tennessee, from … New York, Oregon, Florida, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Canada.
And so there they stood.
From the North, the South, the East and the West.
And so there they stood.
You, the fan.
And for us, they came to see.
And for us, they came to cheer.
And now, it is our turn to cheer back.
For you, the fan.
This one is for … you.
“… you in this light…”
As I walked down this line of fans waiting to get into the Classic weigh-in we shared stories, and sanitizer.
Ellen from somewhere in Ohio, maybe Cinci, maybe not, told me “to never forget that we live and work in what most people can only dream about.”
For a moment I didn’t know what to say, and then she asked me if she could give me a hug, “You know with this virus thing, is it okay to shake hands, to hug or do I need to stand back 3 feet?”
I smiled, and we hugged, and I thanked her saying, “No dreams out here, no dreams in there.”
No lines outside, no lines in the water.
Simple as that.
“Hey db …”
I thought the voice came from my left, but those seats were not yet filled.
“… db, over here ...”
And when I turned to my right, there in the first row sat a man and a woman, both smiling at me.
“… you want to hear something cool …”
Yes I do.
“… this is the 50th anniversary of the Bassmaster Classic right …”
“… this is …”
And then at that exact moment someone hit the button for a “sound check” which always begins loud and then gets dialed down, I saw his lips move but heard nothing so I got closer and found out …
… his name is Richard, next to him is his wife, Linda, they are the Hyde’s from Fulton, N.Y.
Richard worked at Nestlé for 35 years, Linda at the Olive Garden, 19 years, now the cool part…
“On our 25th wedding anniversary we spent it at the 25th Bassmaster Classic …”
I started to smile before she even finished the sentence.
“… and now for our 50th wedding anniversary we decided to once again come to the Bassmaster Classic. How cool is that?”
Damn cool actually.
I told them I hoped to see them at our 75th.
And all three of us smiled.
“… it is the last time…”
Her name is Payton, she is 12 or so, I forgot where she told me she lived. I do remember though why I took this photo.
There stood on the Classic stage …
… a young woman member of the United State Armed Forces and she was singing the national anthem, behind her on a huge video screen was the image of the American flag that she, and thousands of others, took an oath to defend.
And in the stands another young woman also took to her feet.
And in the stands another young woman also sang the national anthem.
Word for word.
“Why do you want to take my picture?”
“Because I heard you sing.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry because you made me very happy.”
Then I stepped back real quick and snapped that photo of her.
Next to her both her mom and dad were also smiling.
As well they should.
“…that we might be…”
I have been in this journalism gig a long time, been taking photos for people to look at since Jimmy Carter was in office.
In 1971 I bought, in a pawn shop for $3.25, an old Bakelite Kodak Brownie 127 and took my first photograph of the Shea’s Buffalo Theater sign lit up at night on Main Street in my home town.
A week or so later after getting the film developed I saw that in fact I had taken a wonderful photo of the ground in front of the theater, but I was hooked.
This year is my 50th anniversary of taking pictures, nine years from that first photo of the sidewalk I was in college majoring in picture taking, 10 years after that sidewalk photo I sold my first picture, a sporting event, of the Buffalo Gemini’s Semi-Pro football team.
Tens of thousands of photos later I take one photo I will always point to as my best journalism photo, ever.
Here’s exactly how it happened, on stage …
… a woman of the Armed Forces was doing the initial sound check and lighting set up. It was the first day of the weigh-in, Friday, the arena was filled with workers and roadies setting up the event.
The arena is like a bowl, spectator seats ring the floor, no fans were in any of those seats, other than workers I thought it was an empty arena.
I took the photo of the soldier using the manual settings of my camera, did it mainly to lock in the ISO and f/stop for when it wasn’t practice, but when it was showtime.
As I was taking the photo, and as she was singing, I took the camera down from my eye to look at the photo in the view finder and just for a moment caught in the side of my eye slight movement to my left and almost behind me.
When I turned this is exactly what I saw …
… a lone young man standing, hand over heart, standing for the national anthem.
Let me be clear, this was a practice for the song, for the sound check the singer would sometimes start and stop …
… and yet this young man stood tall.
… and yet this young man honored the song through the entire practice and until the soldier walked off the stage.
No one else in the entire arena did what this young man did.
He told me when I went over to shake his hand that his name, I think, was David, to be honest I had tears in my eyes while trying to talk to him. He was there with his grandfather sitting in chairs on the arena floor, just them.
I asked why, why he did what he did and he told me simply, “It’s what my father taught me to do, taught me to honor our country.”
Yeah, I can take pretty photos of sunsets, ocean waves and pretty girls, doctor them up some, jiggle some presets and things and come up with a prettier photo than this here one.
The goal in photography is to have the photo, take you.
Of all the photos I’ve taken, this one, took me.
Look at it.
Think about it.
Swirl it around in your heart some.
It will take you as well.
It is within the hands of fans like this young man whom we will leave this sport.
It is to them we thank.
You … the fan.
We are leaving the 75th Bassmaster Classic in great hands.
“…exactly like we were.”
When We Were Young
“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”
— Ansel Adams