Throughout Snap Decisions I talk about the evolution of my photography as it related to my maturity as a young man. Early in my career, because I was learning photojournalism on the job without any formal training, I lacked the understanding of journalistic ethics that comes with a college field of study.
Many of my fellow colleagues came to the ADN with an educational background in which they were taught the ethics of journalism. I can point to Erik Hill and Bill Roth who have journalism degrees (Erik has a Masters), who understood the ethics of honesty and understanding towards the subjects in their photos.
At the beginning, I saw chasing police and fire events as a way to capture raw emotion, make great photos, and I had very little consideration towards the people in my photos and what they might be going through.
Jeff Floyd, hugging his wife Terri (right) as they watched their apartment go up in flames in 1985, tried to get me fired for using this photo in the paper. To get his name, I had lied to him about which photo we would probably use. When he saw this one on the front page the next day, he called the assistant managing editor Mike Campbell, who was not happy about the lie.
Mike called me in for a conversation. He told me that when you work in the same town, day after day, year after year, you can’t afford to lose people’s trust. “Their trust is not worth a photograph,” Mike told me.
It was advice I took to heart. As I say in the book: "Very quickly I came to understand the events I photographed changed peoples’ lives. And the people changed me."
I was a pioneer of cameras in the courtroom in the 1980's. Cameras were not allowed in any courtroom in the state, but in 1985 a three-year experiment began, and I worked with judges and court administrators to help get easier access for photojournalists.
Unlike the days when we had to chase down defendants in “perp walks,” now at least we could show the public what the defendant looked like and document how the courts worked, which gave greater weight to our reporting.
There were smiles and tears in the courtroom October 6, 1988, after Kirby Anthoney (left) was convicted of the rape and murders of his aunt Nancy, and his nieces, Melissa, eight, and Angela, three. Smiles for spectators in the gallery, and satisfaction for APD detective Joe Austin (right rear). Tears for the victims’ husband and father John Newman (center, in glasses), hugged by family members who supported him through the trial of his nephew.
This photograph won the 1988 Joseph Costa Award for Courtroom Photography, awarded from Ball State University, for the best courtroom photo taken that year across the U.S.