The story of my second arrest

canalJuly 19, 1994. About 3 pm. I’m standing on a canal bank in south central Bakersfield, talking with some members of the Kern County Sheriff’s Department’s Search and Rescue team. They have been called, as have I, to this location for a report of a little boy who has disappeared in the canal’s waters. I don’t know it, but in about 10 minutes, I’m going to be arrested for the second time in my career.¬†And that’s the nature of photojournalism, that’s how quickly a situation can turn on you. One minute you’re talking with deputies and officers you know. The next minute, one you don’t know shows up, decides you don’t belong there, and all hell breaks loose. And that’s what happened on this day.

Interestingly, Henry Barrios has also come to the scene. I don’t notice as he snaps a picture of me talking to these guys. It turns out that that picture will become a crucial part of my defense. Notice the lens on my camera. It’s a 300 mm f4 Nikkor, and we’re going to be able to use it to blow away the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s contention that I was physically interfering with their efforts to put their boats in the water. That was the lie the prosecutor came up with. You can’t get on top of people with a 300 mm lens.

When the little boy’s body is seen floating at a different part of the canal, I arrive at the same time as authorities. They cut the gate, enter and begin the process of putting their boats in the water. I enter, too. My second camera contains a 50 mm lens, but I decide to head down the canal bank to shoot the boats going in with the 300. I am about 50 yards away, nowhere near any of the officers or boats, when a sheriff’s sergeant sees me and motions me to leave the canal bank. I initially ignore him. He yells and motions me toward him. I comply, and he tells me I can’t take pictures from that location. We argue. I ask him to explain why. He answers “because I said so.” Not good enough, I tell him. I ask him again, and he repeats “because I said so.” I tell him I’m going back to my spot. He says “do it and you’re going to jail.” I say, “well then take me to jail,” and I start to head back to the spot. He arrests me. It’s such a bullshit arrest that on the way to jail, the transporting officer, who was not the arresting officer, says, “I can’t believe he arrested you. You weren’t doing anything wrong. I’m sorry this happened.” Yeah, that much of a bullshit arrest. And how about this: when we were ready for trial and received the prosecution’s witness list, the arresting officer was not on it! Yeah, the prosecution was not even willing to put the guy who arrested me on the stand. That ought to speak volumes about him and his bogus arrest.

Henry Barrios would access the scene from a vantage point where there were not any deputies and would make a series of photos of the little boy being recovered. They were extremely graphic, and The Californian would decide not to publish them. And that’s how it’s supposed to work. The editors decide, not the cops. There’s no question in my mind this sergeant’s intent was singular – to prevent photos from being taken.

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This would be the only photo I would take before being arrested. It’s Sgt. Marty Williamson cutting the gate to the canal fence where the little boy has been spotted. Williamson is not the officer who arrested me. He is a long-time friend.

About a week later, I have my first meeting with my attorney, Stan Simrin. I walk into his office, and he says “I have good news for you.” I break into a grin. “Case dismissed,” I ask? After all, that’s what happened the first time I was arrested by KCSO, back in 1981. “No,” says Simrin. “This case isn’t going to get dismissed. (District Attorney Ed) Jagels is going to take this one all the way to the mat. You need to understand, Jagels hates The Californian. This is his opportunity to nail them. You really don’t matter. This is Jagels vs. The Californian, not Jagels vs. you. We’re going to win this case, but it could go all the way to the state supreme court. Are you ready for that?”

I tell him of course I am, and then ask “what’s the good news?” “The good news is I got the police report and it matches your report, almost exactly.” OK, I’m a little puzzled. Why is that good news? “Because there is no dispute about what happened. What you say happened and what the deputy says happened is the same. We do not have a he said, she said. A jury will not have to decide who is telling the truth, you or the deputy. Our case will be entirely about the law. Who was right within the law, you or the deputy?”

And, of course, I was. The case would wind through two courts and four judges, and take almost a year. Simrin was right about Jagels. When a municipal court judge refused to even allow the case to go to a jury and declared that I was not guilty and that the sheriff’s department was in the wrong (he said that!), Jagels appealed to superior court. There, a three judge panel ruled in my favor and rejected Jagels’ request to overrule the first judge and remand me for trial. It was the first case in California since the state supreme court’s ruling in Leiserson v. San Diego, which held that news media have an absolute right to access accident and disaster scenes, and it was Leiserson that the judges used to uphold the lower court.

Jagels did not appeal any further, and the case was over. The worst part of it for me was the fear of losing. Not because of jail – there was no way I would be sentenced to jail – but because of how it would have negatively impacted news photographers throughout the state. The case was being watched all over the state and even the nation, it received a lot of media coverage. But that didn’t happen. The Leiserson ruling held, the judges got it right, and Jagels would never “get” another chance at The Californian.

I just don’t abide censorship

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Kern County sheriff’s technical investigator Tom Jones details the scene near Glennville, California, where two gay men, Sidney Moses Wooster, 26, and Jack Blankenship, 38, were shot and killed by Bakersfield businessman William Robert Tyack, 42. The judge, John Nairn, is to Jones’ right, prosecutor Joe Beckett is at far right and defense attorney Timothy Lemucci is next to him. The picture was taken down by administrators of a large, 18,000-plus Facebook history group, because of fever-pitched reaction, including anti-gay comments by several members.
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Comments to this photo of United Farm Workers president Cesar Chavez, which I shot in 1983, were so brutally negative that there was no doubt in my mind it too would have been removed, but I withdrew from the group before administrators did so.

To my friends: I have withdrawn from the 18,000-plus member Facebook group “Kern County of Old” and have removed all of the contributions I’ve made to the site after the group’s administrators removed one of my photos.

Two days ago, I posted a photo that I shot in 1982, and was published in The Bakersfield Californian, of a remarkable piece of Kern County history: a visit by the court, the jury and the media to the site of the killings of two gay men by a Bakersfield business owner, William Robert Tyack. Reaction to the photo was fierce and quite fever-pitched, and sadly, some comments were way out of line with a handful of anti-gay trolls degrading the conversation. As a result, the site’s administrators chose to remove the photo.

I was provided an explanation by an administrator, and I thank him for it. Unfortunately, it is not acceptable to me, given my position as an educator whose very essence is defined by a fervent opposition to censorship and an insistence that all views – including unpopular views and views I might not agree with – be tolerated. The administrators invited me to re-post the photo with the caveat that nobody will be permitted to comment on it. To agree to this would essentially be violating the very anti-censorship principles that inform every moment of my teaching. Because my massive collection of photos involve significant past news events – some quite notorious, as is the nature of photojournalism – I cannot agree to the posting of truly historic photos that members of the group may or may not be allowed to comment on.

Additionally, a photo I posted this morning of Cesar Chavez conducting a United Farm Workers meeting in 1983 – also a published Bakersfield Californian assignment – elicited an overwhelming number of anti-Chavez and anti-UFW responses and while administrators did not take that photo down, I was relatively sure they were going to remove it, too, given that these comments were equally as vile as some of the murder trial comments.

It wasn’t too long into my career I began to learn hard lessons about the nuances of censorship. And I came to form an opinion, which I still hold, that of all forms of censorship, self censorship is the most insidious of all. When you are made to be afraid to post or comment or, in this case, share pictures that have real value to our area’s history, because of a fear of others’ responses and reactions, or acquiescing to their views that history is best when it is wiped clean of its sometimes unsavory and gritty reality, that is the chilling effect at its very worst, and I will have no part of it.

Understand, this is not a legal issue, it is a moral issue. “Kern County of Old” has a right to control the content of its page, and I have a right to decide the manner and means in which I decide to share my photos. All of the photos I have removed from Kern County of Old are posted on my blog or on Facebook. It was nice sharing some of them with such a wide audience, but I can no longer do so under their terms, then walk into my classes at Cal State Bakersfield and Bakersfield College and in good conscience lecture about the importance and value of free thought, the free exchange of ideas and why, I hope, my students will some day come to oppose censorship with the same fervor I do.

The Face of Hate revisited; unseen photos from the trial of William Robert Tyack

The first time I photographed double murder defendant William Robert Tyack, he glared at me from the defense table. I did not know at the time that the Tyack case would be one of the defining cases in the history of violence against the LBGTQ community in America.
The first time I photographed double murder defendant William Robert Tyack, he glared at me from the defense table. I did not know at the time that the Tyack case would be one of the defining cases in the history of violence against the LBGTQ community in America. This photo was published in The Bakersfield Californian in the spring of 1982.

When I started this blog in December, one of my initial posts was “The Face of Hate,” which showed a couple of pictures from the first murder trial I ever photographed, the sensational double homicide trial of William Robert Tyack, a Bakersfield, California, tire shop owner who shot and killed his two gay neighbors in a Kern County mountain community. The blog had no followers at the time and was receiving virtually no readership – thank you everybody for changing that! – so the post has been largely unseen.

I recently took another journey through the massive collection of images from the 1980s that I have loosely assembled in a giant file cabinet down at The Bakersfield Californian, and found another set of images from the Tyack trial and I’m sharing them here. All but one of them are previously unpublished, and I hope you will find them as fascinating as I do for their historical value.

On April 20, 1982, I was assigned with reporter Michael Trihey to go to Glennville, California, a predominantly second home and vacation home mountain community about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield. I was a 23-year-old rookie, just seven months into my photojournalism career. I knew that the Tyack trial was a big one, but I didn’t know that I was going to photograph something that virtually no photojournalist working nowadays will ever get to photograph; something rare even for the 1980s and something that I can’t ever imagine even being photographed again, especially with the unrestricted access I had that day. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you look at the pictures.

But I need to start by giving you a little background on the murders of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Moses Wooster and the trial of his killer, William Robert Tyack. It all comes from the extensive media coverage and trial testimony. Tyack was the owner of a Bakersfield tire shop who became angered that two homosexual men, Blankenship, 38, of Big Bear City and Wooster, 26, of Los Angeles, had become his neighbors in Glennville. According to testimony presented by the prosecution, he had openly expressed his anger and stated that if given a chance to kill the men, he would. In August, 1981, Tyack encountered Blankenship and Wooster on one of the isolated roads outside Glennville, and they engaged in a confrontation. The incident ended with Tyack shooting Blankenship once in the chest, and Wooster four times, including twice in the back. Both men died at the scene.

(In 2011, a man name Tom who identified himself as Wooster’s older brother engaged in a lengthy online discussion on the “Adventist Today” web site titled “God Loves Gays and So Should We.” Here’s what Tom wrote about Sidney Wooster’s murder during a particularly heated exchange: ” My younger brother, Sidney was murdered in Bakersfield, CA in August of 1981 along with his boss Jack Blankenship on a dirt road, at about 21:30 hrs., and yes I’ve got the 8 X 10 color glossy’s of the scene – and I can see the path where my brother crawled while the 4 bullets bleed his life out of him. Ok, the murderer, William Robert Tyack shot and killed his boss Jack – as they were going out to talk to a man about listing his property with the realestate firm. Mr. Tyack said: “I aimed to kill those 2 gay guys.” —- How dare you tell me I don’t know anything!!!! Mr. Tyack spent a few days in a half-way house, So would you like a little of my rage directed at YOU????” Here’s the link to the entire Adventist exchange.)

In one of the most closely-followed trials of its time and one that still resonates and is referenced today as violent crimes against LBGTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender and Queer) people remain a major social issue, Tyack, 42, was acquitted in the killing of Blankenship and convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter against Wooster. The case would reinforce a national impression of Bakersfield and Kern County being a place where violence against gays is tolerated, but many courtroom observers pointed out that the verdict was likely more a result of defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi “out-lawyering” prosecutor Joe Beckett, whose slow and plodding courtroom style may have caused him to lose the attention of the jury.

Today, violence against the LBGTQ community is still an important social issue in America, and the Tyack case and trial almost always surfaces as a reminder of what many believe is a tolerance in society of such crime. According to this BuzzFeed article detailing a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, while overall violent crime against LBGTQ people decreased in the past year, homicides rose. And a pair of newer, clearly defined targets have seen in increase in violence: gays and lesbians of color and transgender people.

On that day in April, 1982, I had no idea at the time that I would photograph one of the most remarkable scenes of my career. The trial of William Robert Tyack was being moved to the location of the murders of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster. Bakersfield Californian reporter Michael Trihey and I joined the caravan of court officials, police, defendant Tyack, the jurors and, remarkably, just a few other media members, to the scene outside Glennville. My access was unhindered and unrestricted. I was free to shoot everything, including the jurors (something completely unheard of today), and it wasn’t until I found and looked at these images a few days ago that I realized what a remarkable piece of history had been filed away in that metal cabinet for the past 33 years. Other than the first picture, which will follow this paragraph, all of the pictures from the day the William Robert Tyack trial moved to the murder scene, have never before been seen.

Kern County sheriff's technical investigator Tom Jones details the scene outside Glennville, California where two homosexual men, Sidney Moses Wooster, 26, and Jack Blankenship, 38, where shot and killed by Bakersfield businessman William Robert Tyack, 42. The judge, John Nairn, is to Jones' right.
Kern County sheriff’s technical investigator Tom Jones details the scene outside Glennville, California where two homosexual men, Sidney Moses Wooster, 26, and Jack Blankenship, 38, where shot and killed by Bakersfield businessman William Robert Tyack, 42. The judge, John Nairn, is to Jones’ right.
Jurors watch as Kern County sheriff's technical investigator explains the murder scene. The judge, John Nairn, is to the right nearest Jones, then defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi and prosecutor Joe beckett.
Jurors watch as Kern County sheriff’s technical investigator explains the murder scene. The judge, John Nairn, is to the right nearest Jones, then defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi and prosecutor Joe Beckett.
Prosecutor Joe Beckett (right) and defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi watch testimon at the murder scene. The woman is unidentified, but since she is holding a notebook, is likely one of the jurors.
Prosecutor Joe Beckett (right) and defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi watch testimony at the murder scene. The woman is unidentified, but since she is holding a notebook, is likely one of the jurors.
Double murder defendant William Robert Tyack watches the trial testimony at the location of the killings of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Moses Wooster during his 1982 trial. Tyack was acquitted in the death of Blankenship and convicted of a lesser charge in the killing of Wooster. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Double murder defendant William Robert Tyack watches the trial testimony at the location of the killings of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Moses Wooster during his 1982 trial. Tyack was acquitted in the death of Blankenship and convicted of a lesser charge in the killing of Wooster. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Tyack moved freely about during the trial testimony at the murder scene near Glennville, California, but Kern County sheriff's deputies constantly surrounded him.
Tyack moved freely about during the trial testimony at the murder scene near Glennville, California, but Kern County sheriff’s deputies constantly surrounded and watched him.
Judge John Nairn oversees the testimony in the trial of William Robert Tyack as jurors look on.
Judge John Nairn oversees the testimony in the trial of William Robert Tyack as jurors look on.
Another image of murder defendant William Robert Tyack watching the trial testimony from the murder location on a country road outside Glennville, California.
Another image of murder defendant William Robert Tyack watching the trial testimony from the murder location on a country road outside Glennville, California.
Defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi and his investigator Leonard Winter. The defense argued self defense and won an acquittal in the killing of Jack Blankenship and a conviction on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Sidney Wooster.
Defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi and his investigator Leonard Winter. The defense argued self defense and won an acquittal in the killing of Jack Blankenship and a conviction on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Sidney Wooster.
At the scene of the homicides of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster, Kern County sheriff's detective Dwight Pendleton testifies in the trial of William Robert Tyack from the back of a pickup truck. At right is court stenographer Bob Gross and technical investigator Tom Jones is at left.
At the scene of the homicides of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster, Kern County sheriff’s detective Dwight Pendleton listens from the back of a pickup truck as court stenographer Bob Gross records technical investigator Tom Jones’ (left) testimony.
An overview of the scene where the William Robert Tyack trial moved to the murder location on April 20, 1982.
An overview of the scene where the William Robert Tyack trial moved to the murder location on a dirt road outside Glennville, California on April 20, 1982.
Judge John Nairn (center) and jurors listen to testimony from Kern County sheriff's technical investigator Tom Jones at the scene of the murders of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster.
Judge John Nairn (center), attorneys, media members and jurors listen to testimony from Kern County sheriff’s technical investigator Tom Jones at the scene of the murders of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster.
Kern County sheriff's technical investigator Tom Jones testifying at the location where two gay men, Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster, were shot and killed during a confrontation with William Robert Tyack near Glennville, California in August, 1981.
Kern County sheriff’s technical investigator Tom Jones testifying at the location where two gay men, Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster, were shot and killed during a confrontation with William Robert Tyack near Glennville, California in August, 1981.
Two likely jurors at left, Judge John Nairn and prosecutor Joe Beckett and defense attorney watch the testimony of Kern county sheriff's technical investigator Tom Jones.
Two likely jurors at left, Judge John Nairn and prosecutor Joe Beckett and defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi watch the testimony of Kern county sheriff’s technical investigator Tom Jones.
Two vehicles put in place for most likely a visual recreation of their position on the road outside Glennville, California during the shooting deaths of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster by William Robert Tyack.
Two vehicles put in place for most likely a visual recreation of their position on the road outside Glennville, California during the shooting deaths of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Wooster by William Robert Tyack.
KERO-TV bakersfield reporter Carl Schweitzer and cameraman Rob Bishop follow defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi at the murder scene where William Robert Tyack shot and killed two homosexual men near Glennville California. They were among the media on hand the day the trial was moved to the scene.
KERO-TV Bakersfield reporter Karl Schweitzer and cameraman Rob Bishop follow defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi at the murder scene where William Robert Tyack shot and killed two homosexual men near Glennville California. They were among the media on hand the day the trial was moved to the scene.

Prosecutor Joe Beckett spent more than 40 years with the Kern County District Attorney’s office. He died at age 77 in 2010. Defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi is regarded as one of Kern County’s best criminal defense attorneys, and is still practicing law. As a point of disclosure, I should say that I did not know Lemucchi when I covered this trial, or at any point in my photojournalism career, but we have become friendly in recent years and I have provided paid commercial photography services to both he and his wife. William Robert Tyack is still alive, and according to Whitney Weddell, the best known LBGTQ rights advocate and activist in the ultra-conservative Kern County, is still selling tires. She points out that the murders of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Moses Wooster and the Tyack trial are what brought her out of the closet and are the reason why she became a gay rights activist. In 1999, Tyack was arrested and faced revocation of his parole after a Fish and Game warden found him in possession of a gun. A subsequent search of his house disclosed several guns in safes and other locations on his property, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He was charged with five counts of being an ex-felon in possession of firearms. He faced a possible life prison term under California’s “three strikes law.” According to Kern County court records, he pled guilty to one count and the other four counts were dismissed in the “furtherance of justice.” He was sentenced to one year in jail and served 14 days. He was fined $200 and was placed on three years probation.

Note: Some identifications of the individuals at the Glennville scene were provided by former deputies, reporters and court officials. If any are in error and need clarification, please contact me via comment and I will correct them.

After five days of deliberations, the jury rendered its verdict in the case of William Robert Tyack. I positioned myself in front of Tyack's wife and son, and recorded this image as they learned Tyack had been found not guilty of first degree murder and guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
After five days of deliberations, the jury rendered its verdict in the case of William Robert Tyack. I positioned myself in front of Tyack’s wife and son, and recorded this image as they learned Tyack had been found not guilty of first degree murder and guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The Hart Park drowning photo

hart parkThe afternoon of July 28, 1985 would change my career. I was 27. I have told the story about this photo so many times, in interviews, at conferences, at gatherings with friends and colleagues and at dozens of high school and college journalism programs, that I really don’t think I need to rehash it here. Rather, I’d like to share with you a story about one of the great honors I would receive and how the voice I was given in my profession has helped me make sense of this terrible tragedy in which the Romero family lost a son and brother. I never should have become the story, but that’s unfortunately what happened. First, however, I should clear up the misconceptions that have accompanied this photo for the past 29 years. One is that Edward Romero drowned in the Kern River. Not true. Edward drowned in Hart Park Lake. The river runs through the park, but this happened in the lake. Next is that the woman is Edward’s mother. She is his aunt. The story that I was ordered by the officer in charge, then Lt. Carl Sparks (he’s on the left of the photo), not to take the photo and that I ignored him is true. The final one is that the family was upset about the photo being published. Eloy Romero, the boy’s father, told The Californian that he had seen the photo, but was so grief stricken by the death of his son he couldn’t care about a picture. Now, my story:

In 2008, I received what I consider the greatest honor of my career. No, it wasn’t an award. I’m not big on awards, though I gladly accepted them if they came my way. It was an invitation to speak at a conference on media ethics at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. I was invited by renowned ethicists Deni Elliott, who holds the Poynter Jamison Chair in Media Ethics and Press Policy at the University of South Florida, and Paul Martin Lester, professor of journalism at Cal State Fullerton and the author of numerous books on photojournalism and photojournalism ethics. In 1985, I shot a picture at the scene of a drowning in Hart Park in Bakersfield. The picture became one of the most controversial of the decade, and at age 27 and just four years into my career, I was thrust into the national media spotlight. Somehow, some way, the picture and the fallout resulted in the media industry turning me into an authority on media ethics. Of course, I wasn’t, I was a newspaper staff photographer wearing a Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA Tour” t-shirt and a Los Angeles Raiders cap working a Sunday afternoon who took a picture, just like thousands of others would have. But the calls and invitations and interview requests kept on coming, still do. For two weeks, I came to work and did media interviews and pretty much nothing else. So I took my new role seriously. When I wonder what good could come from such a tragic image, the answer is that it gave me a voice in a profession I care deeply about. And the thing that scares me and troubles me the most about that profession is the ease with which some will sacrifice the ethics we old timers still hold dearly. If I have a voice, and people are interested in what I have to say, I’m going to use it and be pretty damn serious about it, too. Talking to journalism students is my truest joy, whether it’s in my own classes at Bakersfield College or at universities and conferences.
What made this one different was that it was the University of South Florida. The home of media ethics studies, closely aligned with the prestigious Poynter Institute, also in St. Petersburg. I was one of three photographers invited to speak at the conference. The others were the legendary Jay Maisel, considered in some photo circles as the greatest color photographer in the world; and John Filo, who in my opinion, shot the greatest news photo ever taken on American soil, the tragic Kent State massacre photo. My brain still is not able to grasp how I got invited to speak with those two guys. What the hell was I doing there? I don’t know, but damn, was I thrilled. So thrilled and excited, if fact, that I took my mom to Florida with me. I wanted her to be part of this. I did, however, get a lecture from her about using profanity in my talk. I’m not the type of guy who uses profanity, especially around students, and asked mom what I said. Apparently I said “shit” and “damn” at least one time. I explained to mom that those really aren’t curse words anymore, but mom’s old school, and a curse word is a curse word. The Californian thought the invitation was pretty cool, too, especially my executive editor Mike Jenner, and they even paid my salary so I did not have to use vacation days!
When I was a journalism student at Cal State Northridge, I remembered the excitement of having professional journalists come to talk to us. I remember hanging on their every word, taking in every story, every experience. As these students spoke to me, took my picture, interviewed me for their projects and student newspaper, I wondered, “Do they have any idea how excited I am right now?” I was trying to come across as the cool and polished professional, the guy who’d been doing this for 27 years, but inside I was that Cal State Northridge kid, more excited, I think, than they were.
John and I presented separately, talking about our picture, how it changed us, how it impacted our careers. I think the treat for the students and conference attendees was they got to see our outtakes, the entire shoots, not just the picture the world would see. I know I was fascinated by John’s Kent State take. Dr. Lester, the Cal State Fullerton professor, was struck by the similarities of how John and I approached and shot our assignments. We were two photographers who didn’t know the other, who shot our pictures 14 years apart, yet our takes were strikingly similar. Lester asked John and I to author a study for his Visual Communication Quarterly, a publication that studies and explores these things. While John and I are credited as the authors, Paul is the one who put it together. This is the piece, and as it shows, it is eerie in how our pictures and our approach were so similar. Here is the project:quarterly_1 Quarterly_2 Quarterly_3 Quarterly_4 Quarterly_5 Quarterly_6Here is the original Associated Press photo transmission – long discolored and faded – of the Hart Park drowning photo. This is what came out of a machine and landed on the desk of every newspaper in the United States and the world that subscribed to the AP. The back story is I had a long argument with an assistant managing editor over moving this photo. He did not want it moved. He eventually gave up, threw up his hands and said (I swear), “Go ahead and move it (to the Associated Press), but I’m telling you, nobody is going to be interested in this photo.” drowntransmissionThe aftermath of the picture’s publication would also contribute mightily to my career-long disdain of newspaper publishers and executives, thanks to what happened the following spring at the California-Nevada Associated Press News Executives annual convention in Orange County, California. I was invited to speak at the conference, and the picture was a nominee for best news photo and the Associated Press Mark Twain Award for photo of the year. The talk did not go well. The controversy over the photo’s publication clearly split opinion in the industry, with most editors siding with my editor, Bob Bentley, that it was a mistake to have run the photo, and most photographers believing the photo should have been published. The debate reached a fever pitch months earlier when Bob Greene, a Chicago Tribune¬† columnist, called the photo “pornography” and made some comment like “it would be too much to ask a photographer to think.” (Slight paraphrase, or maybe an exact quote, I don’t remember, I’m not going to waste time looking up his drivel.) That column lit up the photojournalism industry. During my talk, the editors pressed me to admit that it was wrong to publish the photo. I refused, and it got contentious to say the least. That night, the photo would win the best news photo award. The awards were a big deal. Big enough that the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court was the guest speaker. Then it happened. It won the Mark Twain Award for Associated Press Photo of the Year. And as I walked up to receive it, the audience of editors and publishers booed. And booed loudly. Right to my face and right in front of the chief justice. The award also included a prize of $1,000. As I walked back to my table, one of the executives shouted “give the money back!” I’ll admit it shook me up. I was young and really hoped that someday I might move on and work for one of these people. That changed everything. I had been taught in j-school to respect publishers and editors. My vision of these folks was Lou Grant, Charley Hume and Mrs. Pinchon. Katherine Graham, Otis Chandler and Ben Bradlee. I was beginning to realize that they were the exceptions, that a whole hell of a lot of people guiding this business were losers. And my attitude toward them changed. From now on, as far as I was concerned, they did not get my automatic respect. They had to earn it, not vice versa. Interestingly, my editor Bob Bentley, was very upset with his colleagues at the conference and let me know he did not appreciate what happened. As for me, my career would progress just fine, but oh, baby, what I would give to face off with that room full of assholes today!