The man behind the photographs

You may have or not have heard that our star photographer Mr. Frank Speziale, was involved in a moped versus pick-up truck accident, which is similar to having a person launched by a catapult into a brick wall, type of collision. The moped is the catapult, the truck the brick wall and that person was Frank.

Frank’s OK, a bruised face and some minor complications that landed him a few nights at Wilson Regional Medical Center for observation. He’s home now and doing fine.

On his way back from the hospital, his first stop was The Evening Sun. He limped in to make sure the rest of us had adequate coverage for the Chenango County Fair this week. They really just don’t make them like they used to, I guess. He’ll be out of work for a while and another co-worker, Jessica Lewis, recently gave birth to a baby boy and departed Monday, the day before Frank’s accident.

So last week and now this one, I have become the stand-in photographer for The Evening Sun. So if you see me darting wildly through traffic, stopping public events dead in their tracks for a few snapshots or scaling tall structures, please don’t be alarmed and bear in mind that I’m only trying to do my counterpart justice.

It’s not easy being the guy behind the lens. You’re always on the prowl for the perfect shot – after all your name will appear on it for thousands of people to see.

I’ve already started to notice that for every picture we publish, I snap close to 100 photographs or more. This weekend at the Honda Gold Wing Bike Rally, I had to process 428 pictures, less than 20 of which were eventually published.

Besides trying to get the best 4 by 6 inch representation of any event, people often look to the guy behind the camera to orchestrate the posing for the photograph. Not too unexpected, but when you’ve got a few dozen people rubbing shoulders in an attempt to place themselves all crying out for some direction, things can get a little confusing and tense. In these situations, communication is often broken down into five loud phrases, ‘over there,’ ‘not there,’ ‘this way,’ ‘no the other way,’ and ‘stop’ – often accompanied by over exaggerated and frantic hand motions like the ones used in directing aircraft to land.

When I first starting snapping photos for the job, I thought a lot of these tendencies were the result of Frank’s personality, but now I see that he’s a been shaped by the work environment. My hat’s off to him because sometimes it can be like pulling teeth.

I often comment on how photography is one of my favorite parts of the job, but it can also be my least. On occasion we’ve had to take on the role of paparazzi and capture images of people who have no desire to be in a photograph. People often object, especially if the story it’s for shows them in a poor light.

The most obvious of these is called the ‘perp’ walk. That’s when a person, shackled and in an orange jumpsuit, gets his picture taken while heading in or out of court. The breath of time between the jail van and door is all you’ve got. They move quickly and no one (except for the most special of characters) ever poses.

Å few weeks ago while taking pictures of a drug dealing couple appearing in Norwich City Court, the woman spit on my camera, then on me. I’m sure Frank’s seen it all too – cursing, the finger, and just about every other body expression a creative mind can muster.

That’s the power of a photograph. I’ve never had anyone spit on me for a word (yet) or a name, but putting in a face for the entire county to see, that’s a whole new ball game.

I’ve read recently that just a magazine’s cover is responsible for more than 80 percent of its sales. It’s the first thing a person can glance at and process.

Like they say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and equally important is that it only takes a single look to ‘read’ them all. A good photograph can mean the difference between headline article or below the fold. An iconic picture can come to represent a story more than its contents even can.

Frank just came in again this morning to say hi and probably he’s trying to talk Jeff into letting him work against doctor advice.

After being Frank for a week, let me tell you it isn’t easy. So, get well soon Frank. When you do get back, know that at least one more person has a deeper appreciation of all that you do.

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