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Dancing in the Street

My Christmas shift this year was considerably easier than last year, when my day included a stop at the Union Gospel Mission:

and a snow feature hunt, where I found fellow Christmas day worker Mohinder Sohal, owner and general manager of the Vineyard Inn in Pasco, clearing the roof:

as well as the Streuferts of Richland enjoying some hooky bobbing:

Far from a busy day, to be sure, but when working a holiday, cruising around for feature shots is second only to covering tragedy on the list of things I’d rather not do. So when my only assigned task was a feel-good story about a three-time cancer survivor dancing in the street, I was excited.

Reporter Sara Schilling and I went to visit with Cleda Galioto before the party was supposed to start. Galioto had just won her third bout with breast cancer in 20 years. She celebrated her last victory nine years ago with an outdoor dance party, but this time around, professional pianist Steve Haberman would be providing the music instead of a boom box because she had won a KONA radio contest.

When we arrived, people politely offered to do whatever we needed. I told them I was happy to hang out as the party developed, secretly hoping the guests would let a few bottles of wine and champagne wash away inhibitions before heading into the streets. All seemed to be going well as Sara interviewed Cleda and we built rapport.

And then TV showed up.

I should note that the competition between Tri-Cities’ media outlets is amicable for the most part, and I consider some of the local television reporters, photographers and producers to be friends. Their process in collecting video and interviews for broadcast news packages often conflicts with my goals as a still photojournalist, however.

As soon as the second TV station arrived, it felt like somebody had subliminally shouted “lights” and “camera” right before the dance party started, flying in the face of what I had gathered would be the organic result of bellies full of food and libations. There was a lot of awkward standing around in the beginning and it didn’t help that guests were still arriving as Haberman tickled the keyboard outside, but Cleda’s grandson Anthony, 7, helped loosen people up as he hammed for the cameras:

And I snapped a potential candidate for publication early on of Cleda and her husband Tom sharing a smooch:

And another of Anthony cutting up the asphalt:

Before settling on an angle I liked that incorporated Haberman and the guests before grabbing what would end up being the shot for the paper:

I tried working this scene a little more, hoping to capture Anthony while he faced the camera, but Cleda and her husband Tom turned, which also revealed where the TV reporters had moved:

I shifted to the right to try and use the crowd to block them out again:

But wasn’t getting anything I liked. Plus, the shifting crowd and Anthony’s maintained status as the most energetic dancer meant that the blocking was ineffective:

I would have moved to where the TV people were shooting from, but one of their station-marked cars was parked across the street, negating my effort to park the Herald car a block away. And after two songs, as abruptly as the dance party began, it ended. Haberman packed up his keyboard and the partygoers moved into the warmth as I reflected on what felt like a contrived photo opp.

It was frustrating on a day with only one assignment to not get a shot I really liked — especially when I was going for something simple at what should have been a target-rich environment. I’m sure neither of them were trying to make things tough on me. While shooting for a TV package, broadcast reporters need to get a variety of shots, from tight details to wide overall shots, while I will generally find a good background as I wait for the non-static elements of the image to move into the right place.

Plus, I probably ended up in as many of their shots as they did mine.


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