Monthly Archives: March 2016

I could not pull the trigger

Today I passed up potentially prize-winning photos.  I was in position and ready to pull the trigger.  As I watched one  dramatic moment after another unfolded,  I could not bring my camera up to my eye.

Am I going soft?  Not doing my job? Should I be reprimanded?

I am sure there will be arguments on both sides.  But my conscience will be clear when I go to bed tonight and I will only hope that everything will work out.

suicide attempt

Wednesday afternoon I was at my desk processing photos from previous assignments when my antenna went up as a call come over the scanner.  Signal 1000 on Beech Street.  (Signal 1000 tells police on duty who are not on this particular call to not use the radio as a priority situation is unfolding).  Lewiston or Auburn I wondered since all calls from Lewiston, Auburn and other municipalities’ police and fire communication all come through one speaker mounted in the photo department.  I quickly deciphered it as a possible suicide attempt on the foot trestle between Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston and Bonney Park in Auburn.

It is a sad fact, but we hear this more often than you think.  We generally won’t publish a photo in the newspaper from a suicide attempt unless it is something that causes a major public scene and creates serious disruption or public spectacle.  At some point it is deemed “newsworthy.”   It is one of dozens of judgement calls we make individually and often collectively every day when it comes to what we choose to cover.

I have been on dozens of these calls over the years and we have varied on how we handle them.  Often we publish a brief to let readers know what is going on, and if there is a generic photo of all the emergency crews blocking the area, we might run that as well.  But most of the time we just don’t go.

When I heard the fire dispatcher call for the rescue boat and cutting equipment, that tipped the scales on the response threshold.  When I got to the area there were dozens of police, fire, rescue and ambulance on both sides of the river.  The young man was near the middle, on the outside of the bridge standing on a big pipe with a rope around his neck.  When a woman came running from the parking lot crying and screaming, the drama intensified.  The responders holding her back, dropping to her knees and crying, lights, cops…..the bridge looming in the background.  You could not have scripted it much better to get a genuinely dramatic moment. If I worked myself around, I might have been able to line it all up and get the guy in the background with her in the foreground.  Sure prize winner.   I could have argued back at the newspaper that it was a public spectacle and we owe it to the public to show what was going on.  I am pretty sure I could have “sold it.”  Others might have argued against, but I do carry some weight……hey, no fat jokes please.

How many photojournalists would have “shot everything  and let the editors decide.”  Use the excuse that it’s their job to be there and capture what is going on.  I made a conscious choice to not do my job and show a little compassion.  I tried to be discrete and did shoot some photos in case the worst happened, but for the most part, I put the camera on my hip so neither the woman or the despondent man would have the added stress of knowing they will be splashed all over the news. What if he noticed me and that was the final straw that caused him to jump.  Another opportunity for prize-winning photos.   There are some things that trump my journalistic responsibilities and this was one of those scenario’s.  It was my decision.  When I was young and green I probably would have pushed the situation.   Being a father with many more life experiences has changed my perspective on many things.

I am glad I work for a newspaper that shares my compassion and won’t question the judgment call I made today.

Having said all that, my portfolio contains dozens of photos of people who are in compromising situations.  Accidents, fires, disputes and other situations where I have made the choice to pull the trigger and record the moment.  Am I hypocritical?  Perhaps.  Cynical.  Certainly.  Do I pick and choose which situations I shoot and when to stand down.  Yep.  Do I always make the proper decision.  Nope.  Every situation is different.  Some decisions are harder than others.  Sometimes we make the wrong decision to publish or not publish something.  We often get criticized and praised for our reporting.  The left calls us right, the right calls us left.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t most of the time.  It’s part of the reason I love what I do.  Interesting, intriguing, exciting and the ability to impact people’s lives.  Every day is different and every day we start with a clean slate.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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Unified week ends with dreamy weekend

Deborah Riguette calls for her cat Sarah outside her burnt out home on Hackett Mills Road in Poland Monday afternoon.  The indoor cat escaped, but a dog perished in the Sunday afternoon fire.  The scared cat would come and allow Riguette to pick her up, but when she tried to take her away from the house, the cat would scratch and jump out of her hands.  Riguette and her daughter Lisa Sotorer began to search for a box to try to put her in.  "The cat carrier is in the house." said Ringuette.

Deborah Riguette calls for her cat Sarah outside her burnt out home on Hackett Mills Road in Poland Monday afternoon. The indoor cat escaped, but a dog perished in the Sunday afternoon fire. The scared cat would come and allow Riguette to pick her up, but when she tried to take her away from the house, the cat would scratch and jump out of her hands. Riguette and her daughter Lisa Sotorer began to search for a box to try to put her in. “The cat carrier is in the house.” said Ringuette.

The past week was a real corker.  Nursing a back that won’t get better, I took but one camera with me on most assignments, and made my most memorable ones with my cell phone.  Monday started out with me heading to Poland to follow-up on a fire that we missed on Sunday.  When I arrived, with no background on the particulars, I found the woman who lost her home with her daughter looking for her indoor cat that had escaped, but had not been found.  I arrived just in time to capture the capture.  I hope.  Every time they tried to catch her, she would bolt before they could get her to the car.  I had to get back to town for kids putting rubber bands around a watermelon, so I don’t know if they ever got her in the car.  I hope so.  I was not excited to be photographing  the next assignment “recreating” the scene where kids imploded a watermelon for a story about a video that ran on America’s Funniest Videos the night before.   A video of a “recreation” didn’t sit well.

A land fight with a pile of rocks threatening to close a parking lot led off Tuesday, in a steady rain.  Tom was a little leery about having his photo taken by the pile, especially because it was on the disputed land and technically he was trespassing.  He was a sport and went for it without hesitation.

Tom Kendall, the head of the Auburn School Committee, stands on a pile of rocks that have appeared recently next to the East Auburn Community School where a neighbor has threatened to block off a portion of the parking area that the school has used for the past 15 years.

Richard Saucier points to the window he was sitting in at the corner of Ash and Bartlett Streets in Lewiston Tuesday afternoon when he heard an accident and looked out to see the black SUV, foreground, rolling back toward his building.  When he and neighbor Steve Hunt, left, they noticed the male driver take off running. They pursued him up Bartlett Street where he ran up the outside steps to a third floor balcony and hid.  When police arrived, the two, plus a crowd that had gathered, pointed out where the driver was hiding and police arrested him without incident.

Richard Saucier points to the window he was sitting in at the corner of Ash and Bartlett Streets in Lewiston Tuesday afternoon when he heard an accident and looked out to see the black SUV, foreground, rolling back toward his building. When he and neighbor Steve Hunt, left, they noticed the male driver take off running. They pursued him up Bartlett Street where he ran up the outside steps to a third floor balcony and hid. When police arrived, the two, plus a crowd that had gathered, pointed out where the driver was hiding and police arrested him without incident.

Hearing over the scanner that there was a hit and run just up the street, I could not go after hearing witnesses were chasing the guy up Bartlett Street.  A quick trip back to the office to get that posted to the web and I was off for my first ever Unified basketball game. I couldn’t believe the energy, excitement and good-natured fun that was.  Watching two Lisbon student coaches who I coached as kids at the Y was cool.  Getting the reaction of the bench was easy.  The reaction photo ran the entire width of the front page of the sports section.  I milked the bench reaction twice more in the coming week.

Lisbon Unified Basketball team student athlete coaches Jonah Sautter, right and his sister Breeann, second from right, cheer a 3 point play during Tuesday's game against Deering/Portland.

Lisbon Unified Basketball team student athlete coaches Jonah Sautter, right and his sister Breeann, second from right, cheer a 3 point play during Tuesday’s game against Deering/Portland.

The bench and fans react as a Lisbon Unified Basketball team player scores a basket during Tuesday night's Regional Championship game against Deering/Portland in Lisbon.

The bench and fans react as a Lisbon Unified Basketball team player scores a basket during Tuesday night’s Regional Championship game against Deering/Portland in Lisbon.

Lisbon Unified basketball team coach Jonah Sautter and the bench players react as a shot just misses going in during Thursday's state championship game against Hampden Academy.

Lisbon Unified basketball team coach Jonah Sautter and the bench players react as a shot just misses going in during Thursday’s state championship game against Hampden Academy.

While packing up to leave for the day, as happens way too often, one of the editors came over with an assignment that  “is going on right now.”  Nobody else was around, so I was volunteered.  Lucky for me it was for an advance story that would run later and not need processing right away.  Older people training in a boxing gym.  Not to box, but just the workout.  Ah…..the smell of the Gamache Gym in the bowels of the Armory.  The smell of hard work and grit and determination.  Now smelly old feet?

Ken Chutchian throws punches at trainer Dan Escobar during a recent training session.

Ken Chutchian throws punches at trainer Dan Escobar during a recent training session.

Wednesday was an afternoon of catching up.  Processing numerous advanced assignments, emails from people wanting this photo and that.  Can you cover my event? Speak to my group? Find an old photo for somebody writing a book and record all the mystery photo entries.  Every Sunday I publish a mystery photo, nearly 500 so far.   Some of the phone calls I get are a real hoot.  Especially a couple of the old regulars who call every week with their h’accents.  Many go on and on about the photo.  I should record them and put them online.

After getting my fill of computer and phone work, I went to the middle school to shoot a speaker on autism.  His story was compelling and I found myself staying too long to listen.  I needed to get back to the office to process the photo for that night’s paper before heading to the armory to shoot the Fallen Angels roller derby team practice that we will be doing a story on in the future.

Thursday afternoons mundane busy work at the computer was offset by the electricity in the air at the Lisbon gymnasium for the state championship Unified basketball game between Lisbon and Hampden Academy.  There are so many heartwarming stories, moments, and inspiring photos that came from that game.  My favorite is when the ball went off a Hampden player, but the referee called it Hampden ball.  To see the astonished, perplexed and confused look on the Hampden players face was priceless.  He ran right over to the ref and told him, convincingly, that “no, no, no…..the ball went off me.”  The ref shook his head, smiled, blew his whistle and shouted. “Lisbon ball.”  And the game went on.  Hampden scored more points that night, but everyone left the gym a winner. Especially cynical old photojournalists who may have had trouble holding back a tear or two during the game.

Water and slush fly into the air after crashing onto rocks on the shore of Lake Auburn Friday afternoon.  With only a little ice crunching around the shore by the Route 4 turnout, the majority of the lake is ice free, leading to the earliest declaration of "ice out." on record.

Water and slush fly into the air after crashing onto rocks on the shore of Lake Auburn Friday afternoon. With only a little ice crunching around the shore by the Route 4 turnout, the majority of the lake is ice-free, leading to the earliest declaration of “ice out.” on record.

Big news on Friday.  Stop the presses.  Ice was out on Lake Auburn.  Holy Moly!  The earliest on record. Had to go shoot a photo of course.  I really wanted to take some video when I got there.  The tinkling of the remaining ice smashing together as wind drove the last remnants of it onto the rocks would have made a cool video.  But I still had to get to CMCC to cover an unveiling of a mural for their 50th anniversary.   Boogy back to the office to process those two assignments and then off to Portland to cover a Red Claws game.  There was nobody sitting in the seat at court side directly under the basket, so I scoffed it.  Holding the camera down low and shooting up got me a cool angle.  All I had to do was wait for the right moment.  Had to fend off a few balls that came flying my way, but how cool was that. Getting paid to sit in the highest priced seat in place.  Don’t tell anybody I have the best job in the world.  Slave wages, but great working environment.

Maine Red Claws' Malcolm Miller finds a seam between Iowa's Terry Whisnant, left, Mardracus Wade, center, and D.J. Stephens , and flies to the basket during the first period of Friday night's game in Portland.

Maine Red Claws’ Malcolm Miller finds a seam between Iowa’s Terry Whisnant, left, Mardracus Wade, center, and D.J. Stephens , and flies to the basket during the first period of Friday night’s game in Portland.

Saturday we slept late, had a splendid stroll with my 4 legged lady and after lunch, headed to Freeport with the love of my life.  We cruised to Freeport and walked through Mast Landing Sanctuary and then as the sun was setting, found the coolest spot at Wolf Neck campground that leads to the beach where it was protected from the wind and in full sun.  Our new favorite spot.  For now, that is.  When the nearly 400 campsites are overflowing with people, we won’t be there.  But to have the place to ourselves, on this day.  Priceless and a memory worthy of a few photos. 031916 Wolf Neck24 031916 Wolf Neck23 031916 Wolf Neck22 031916 Wolf Neck21 031916 Wolf Neck2 031916 Wolf Neck  Looking forward to another glorious week.

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