Doing Justice

August 28, 2008 

Sometimes a touching story comes along.

And I botch the pictures.

One that comes to mind is the story of Loren Clevenger of Kennewick who dutifully restored his son’s project Camaro after his son, Ross, was killed in Iraq.

We ended up running these two pictures of Loren and the airbrushed portrait of Ross on the trunk.

Loren’s sadness was tangible. Just remembering the look on his face as I’m writing this is bringing me down a couple pegs, but not the unfathomable number of pegs a parent must feel after losing a child.

And maybe that played a role in my failure. Photojournalists constantly draw upon their own experiences to relate to their subjects. A good photo geek spends his or her time learning everything about cameras and technique. A good photojournalist balances this knowledge with a life.

Or maybe I erroneously assumed that his sorrow would be automatically apparent in photographs of him.

And maybe you’re wondering what is so bad about these photos. True, they’re in focus, exposed right and show what he looks like. The problem is showing what the person looks like is the bare minimum.

Often, that’s the best you can get on assignment. As a daily newspaper photographer, I am sent on assignments of varying interest — either to me, the community or sometimes even the subject.

But when presented with a subject who had invested so much time, money and heart into what we are reporting, I just feel like I should have done better.

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