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.
This was a spectacular fire in Anchorage’s Midtown in September 2003. When a gas main ruptured during construction work near the Sears Mall, firefighters called in a backhoe operator to help snuff the inferno.
It was a fire I didn’t need to feel guilty about photographing. There was little chance of property damage and few people put at risk, just big flames and visual drama.
If fireballs and towering flames made for obvious eye-grabbing images, the quiet, sometimes hidden
moments of an emergency scene many times offered a more poignant and telling story for our readers.
Sometimes, it was as simple as turning around and looking behind me.
Anchorage fire Captain Mike Dunn (right) said a prayer of thanks after he and other firefighters saved Leslie DeRego, Jr. from being buried alive. ‘’The majority of people who are buried don’t make it,” said Dunn, who helped dig DeRego out. ‘’But miracles do happen, and this proves it.’’
Here's pages 30-31 of Snap Decisions. This is another example of the News chapter in my book. The portrait on the right is one of my favorites. A grab shot, I caught as Anchorage Fire Captain Jim Kenshalo left a smoking building.
Over the years Kenshalo and I became friendly and, as a Captain, had the authority to hoist me up on the aerial ladder to take photos overlooking a fire scene.
The photo of my Girdwood friend Gary Young was shot at a house fire behind the apartment where I was living at the time. The hard flash and black & white image made me think of those 1940's street photos taken by New York City photographer Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee. (Check out his book Naked City sometime...)
Here's the first themed two-page spread to give you a look at the interior pages of Snap Decisions. As I mentioned before, I wanted to create something more than just a book of pictures with a picture title.
Instead I decided to give readers the back story to each photo: what the assignment was, how I got the photo, what was happening in Alaska at the time, etc. Each two-page spread has a theme, the photos take the stage as the strongest elements on the page, but the words are important too.
These two pages talk about an episode in which my First Amendment rights came under fire, a day where I almost got arrested.