What’s Happening in this Photo?

Most pictures and assignments are pretty straight-forward: you are going somewhere where something is happening and you’re going to try to capture the essence of it. Joe is going to throw the football to Sam. You are going to try to photograph what happens. Easy enough, right?

Sometimes when you look at your film, though, you have to ask yourself some combination of the questions:

  • What in the world is REALLY going on here?
  • What was I thinking when I pushed the button?
  • Why are those people looking at me like that?

The assignment above was to cover Cape Central’s Class of 1965 Senior Party. While Cherie Pind is obviously making an enthusiastic point, Sally Wright and Jim Stone, in the background, are totally tuned out to their surroundings. I think that’s Dale Williams in the background with the bemused expression.

Outside Democratic Headquarters

I have a single frame of these gentlemen standing outside the Democratic headquarters in 1964.I was probably there for some kind of political feature.

There’s no context on the roll for why I happened to notice them. I like the guy puffing away on the cigar and the body language of the guy on the left. It would be fun to know what they were discussing.

Different angle or did I trip?

This is obviously a parade of some kind with the Jackson High School Band marching by. I was either trying a different angle; tripped and dropped my camera, accidentally firing the shutter,  or was trying to appeal to the shoe fetish element of our subscribers. Today’s newspapers probably hired a focus group to calculate just how many of the latter there are. That’s why our local paper runs so many stories about shoes.

What prompted THIS reaction?

I think this is Marilyn Knehans. I know Jon Knehans is on the left. I recognize his deputy’s patch.

What’s going on?

It  COULD have been her reaction if I had asked her for a date. Since I’m sure I didn’t have the nerve to do that, it’s up to you to speculate about what’s going on.

I’m THIS old

This looks like it might have been taken on a Missourian food feature. I have no idea why the kid is holding up the three fingers or who he’s showing them to. He’s pretty serious about it.

Since I wasn’t good at studio work, I tried to avoid shooting food and other products. I was geeky enough to come up with some ideas of how to make food look more appealing for the guys who DID shoot it. I found some chemicals, for example, that would produce fake smoke that I could pipe into the food to make it look steaming.

Before I found the fake smoke, we used REAL smoke. Real smoke enough to set off the building smoke alarms, which caused a whole bunch of guys with hoses and big trucks to show up. This was NOT a good thing.

Is that a come-hither look?

I think this was shot when I was at The Jackson Pioneer. When I looked at the film the other night, I was wondering if the blonde was giving me a come-hither look. Then I analyzed the photo and realized that was unlikely for a couple of technical reasons:

  • It was taken in the dark, so she probably couldn’t see me BEFORE the photo was taken.
  • After the photo was taken, she would have been blinded by the flash.

If it truly was a come-hither look, I’m sorry that I didn’t catch it for about 45 years. I was always a little slow on the up-take.

Like an animal at the zoo

Why these kids are looking at me like some kind of zoo animal, I don’t know. That’s my Buick station wagon they are peering into, but I don’t know what caught their interest. I do note that the door is locked.

See all of those scratches and spots on the lower left side of the photo. I got tired of spotting the flaws and started to pitch it, but then I thought I’d post it as an example of a Before and After shot (see below for the Before).

I decided, instead on writing about the Bald Knob Cross photos because they were better examples of how both cropping AND technical magic could make something out of nothing. This shot, while an interesting spot removal exercise, would never be much more than a record shot.

Scratches and flaws supreme

Here’s the original photo after I had adjusted the lightness and darkness of the main subjects, but before I started spotting out the scratches and flaws. If you click on the image to make it larger, you’ll see a big white spot on the chin of the girl on the right and a spidery dust speck on her lips. Click on the left and ride sides and you can rock back and forth to compare them.

In the final version, I had made the headliner at the top of the door darker to keep your eye on the faces and darkened the door frame to try to hide (unsuccessfully) some of the scratches. I managed to eliminate or minimize all of the scratches on various body parts.

At some point, you cut your losses and decide that you’d rather spend more time on pictures that have more significance. (No offense meant, if any of the trio are readers.)

14 Replies to “What’s Happening in this Photo?”

  1. They were looking for a ride to lunch before they had their license. I never rolled my windows down more than 2 inches after getting a license. LOL I know the blonde is Barbara Bissell. She was the baby of the Bissell girls. So I know she was begging a ride.

  2. I was too at that time. I learned a lot catching a ride in the rumble seat of Marsha McLard’s car going to Dairy Castle or Pfisters, what a great bunch of gals for letting us freshman catch lunch outside the gross cafeteria slop. LOL

  3. Lost my last comment. Marsha McLard was always so nice to give us freshman a ride in the rumble seat to Dairy Castle and Pfisters. We were in awe of how beautiful she and her friends were. We begged rides for a quarter on weekends. That was the price of a gallon of gas.

      1. I like those white dinner jackets with black bow-ties. I wonder if the ones rented for our wedding were the same ones that had been used at yours the year before.

        I had not thought of a newspaperman’s wife being like a pastor’s wife. I was the kid who was getting ready to be born, with the nearest hospital 50 miles away, and the man of the house always running off here and there as job-related duties called. There is still a slight edge in my mother’s voice as she tells these stories.

        Which brings up a question. Does Lila tell these stories, too? Yours is a good one, though, and she obviously let you write it and live (as well as let you take photos and live).

  4. I’m almost positive that the third girl in the Pioneer shot is an old sorority sister of mine from SEMO, Becky Popp. Becky married a guy that went to Rolla with Brad, Jim Montgomery.

  5. Thanks to Penny Hawkins, I can identify the woman the little boy is talking to. I believe Mary Blue is asking how old he is. She was the food editor for 20 plus years at The Missourian. She and “one Shot Frony” traveled throughout SEMissouri and Southern Illinois interviewing “good cooks” for her weekly feature.
    Enjoy your Cape visit with your Mother and family. It’s always a treat to find your Cape (and other) treasures each day.

    1. That’s very likely. There wasn’t enough of her in the frame for me to be sure and she didn’t show up on the rest of the roll.

      Unlike TV, which tries to stick the “talent” in every scene, newspapers had the tradition of keeping reporters and photographers out of the story. Nothing made photographers madder than working with a reporter who wasn’t conscious of where you were and in which direction you were shooting.

      I would tell reporters that I would appreciate it if they would stand behind me and on my left side, particularly in an interview situation.

      “I may move around until I get the subject in just the right position and in the right light. If you are behind me at all times, you won’t show up in the shot and their attention will be directed in my general direction, toward the camera. All I have to do is make a comment or ask a question and they’ll look right at me (and the camera) for the portrait I want.”

      When you found a reporter who understood that, you passed the word around to the rest of the staff. Most of them quickly found out that good art meant increased the odds that their story would get better play, so they cooperated.

  6. Ken, I think the man in the background of the 1965 senior party is Gene Bryant who was the choir director. I beleive that Dale Williams died in 1964.

    1. I believe you’re right on both counts. I didn’t have much contact with the music departments. My singing caused all of the dogs in the neighborhood to howl, drowning out all the other voices, so I wasn’t welcome in the vocal arena.

      When I considered the band, I was quickly informed that about the best I could aspire to do was to play the radio. Off-frequency.

  7. Ken,

    The gentleman outside the Democratic Headquaters smoking the cigar is Mr. Jack Snider. He was one of the janitors at CHS for many, many years. I think he was featured in either the ’65 or ’66 yearbook.


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