Steve Sheppard Photography Blog

The Story Behind The Photograph

with 2 comments


I haven’t done a “The Story Behind The Photograph” in a while so when I found this photo a few days ago, I figured it was a good candidate.

I was looking through a box for old college photos to put on facebook. In the box, I found this photo bent, creased and badly discolored. It was printed on the cheap photographic paper that we used to use in the newspaper business to make a temporary print or to do a test print back in the day. Photos on this paper turn brown pretty quickly. I scanned it, repaired some of the creases and changed it back to black and white in Photoshop. That’s the photo you see above.

One morning back in the early 90s, the newspaper assigned me to shoot a fallen police officer ceremony. It was happening at 9 a.m. and deadline for this afternoon paper was at 10 a.m. I had to shoot quickly and get back to develop, print and give it to the editor.

The chief of police stepped to the podium and I saw him framed by the shadows of two officers, with their heads lowered, in the glass doors of city hall. I pulled my Nikon FM2 up to my eye and knew that I had my photo. I then stepped back and got the obligatory crowd shot and a few other photos, and I was headed back to the office.

I threw the film in the soup, fixer, and wash, hung the film up and dried it with a hair dryer. Since I knew the photo I needed, I put it in the enlarger, exposed for about 10 seconds so I would have time to dodge his face since it was in the shadow of his hat. Then I threw it in the dektol, and there it was just like I envisioned it. I was pretty happy with myself.

After washing and drying the print, I proudly handed it to a copy editor (his name was Louie) who looked at it and said, “nice photo”.  I went back to my desk and sat there waiting for first run of the newspaper to see my finished product and that line that I loved, “photo by Steve Sheppard”.

Another copy editor came though the office throwing the first run on everyone’s desk. He tossed me a copy, I turned it over and, YIKES, the photo below is what I saw. I can’t remember now if he just needed a vertical photo or if he cropped it to save space, but I remember taking a copy home to mull over the tragedy he inflicted on my photo. This is the first time anyone, outside of the newspaper, has seen the original.

Now that it’s off my chest, I feel better.



Written by stevesheppardphotography

November 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I love this story. I think every photographer who has ever worked for a paper or magazine has one of these. Very cool image.


    November 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  2. Ibarionex,
    Thanks for the comment. Yes, it probably happens to most photographers at some point. I can laugh about it now, but it sure isn’t funny when it happened.


    November 16, 2009 at 7:31 pm

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