Very recently we had an old press photographer do a talk at our Photography Club. He started out in the mid 50’s, with a Speed Graphic and finished in the 00’s with digital and had to deal with every change in between – he actually still does a bit of freelance work here and there and has had iPhone shots accepted and published of late (that comes with having a name).
In the discussion, he told a story of one of the worse scene’s he had to report on – it was a massive bus crash where just about every occupant had died. The incident happened out in the countryside, about 20 minutes from the closest town. When he got out there, it was quite late in the night and he found that his flash wasn’t working. He had to race back to the closest town, find the proprietor of the local pharmacy and bought himself an instamatic and a pocket full of flash cubes. He still made do with what he had and still managed to get sufficient photos that were published in the paper.
He also said that when they were sent out with the Graphic, they were only sent out with 4 holders – 2 for the scene and 2 just in case they saw something on the way there and back. More times than not, he would often hand back 3 of those slides un-used.
One thing I did notice about a lot of the older photos that he did display, that they were not always necessarily 100% in focus. Sure, they were close enough and probably good enough. It appears that it was more about getting the story then technical perfection each and every time (& a constraint of shooting pre-focused).
He also used to carry his gear around (for his entire career, mind you) in an aluminium case. He told us that it wasn’t necessarily about transporting his gear, it was more about having his own portable platform to get just above the crowd if needed.
Not that it is about the thread, I think he said it was during the late 60’s that they moved to 35mm equipment, which was Nikon all the way till his retirement. I do notice when I see the press togs around town now, they generally use Canon DSLR’s.
If you ever get a chance to chat with these old press guys, it is most certainly worth-while.