Shooting breaking news can be a difficult process. As a photographer you often come away feeling justified in what you just documented, but nonetheless sheepish about the process. “Just doin’ my job” doesn’t always cut it, especially when you feel like you may have negatively contributed to an already stressful situation.
Driving along Lake St. in Oak Park Monday, I came across the scene of an armed car robbery. A man reportedly pointed a gun at the woman above, ordered her to hand over the keys to her Audi and drove off in a flurry, striking two other cars on the road. It was 5:30 p.m.
Police were still in their early questioning and this poor woman was still in shock as she nervously described the assailant. “My husband’s wallet was in there,” I overheard her say at one point. It’s the kind of moment no one ever imagines will happen to them, and when it does, it is understandably rattling. Having a news photographer pointing a camera in your direction certainly doesn’t help matters.
However — and that’s a big however — there is a good reason to be there as a journalist. Most notably, armed robberies in broad daylight should be reported and often the photographer on a scene can retrieve plenty of facts by being in close proximity. And simply put, if you’re there, it is your job to photograph and report. Secondly, you never know if the event has larger ramifications than first appearances. Maybe it is later discovered the robbery was committed by a serial killer, or maybe the victim turns out to be someone famous. The level of importance for many photos has a way of evolving through time and no one knows just how. As a rule, shoot first, edit later.
A woman being robbed at gunpoint in a busy business district is news fit to print in my mind, although to the woman pictured here, she may see it a little differently. Fortunately for me, I don’t think the woman was too attentive to me being there. One police officer did attempt to block my view, which is par for the course, but otherwise, I was essentially ignored and being ignored is pure gold for a photojournalist.