No picture is complete…
Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2003
From 8:01 a.m. Friday until 7:59 a.m. Saturday, members of the Suffolk News-Herald News Department were roaming the streets of Suffolk armed with cameras.
The results of those efforts will be what we hope is a wonderful special edition of the paper called &uot;A Moment in Time: 24 hours in Suffolk,&uot; which will be published in July.
Merely organizing such a venture is a Herculean task. In order to present a real picture of life in Suffolk, you cannot just blindly walk around with a camera snapping photos. You simply miss too much. There are too many places where real life occurs that one has to secure permission for entry.
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We spent about two weeks brainstorming what should be in the section and then making appointments, schedules, etc. to make it happen.
We had two reporters out on four-hours shifts: 8 a.m.-noon; noon- 4 p.m.; 4 p.m.-8 p.m.; 8 p.m. until midnight; and then night owl managing editor Stephen Cowles took on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift.
Each person was giving a dozen assigned shots, but was also responsible for coming back with 10 unassigned ones.
I did not have a shift, but desperately wanted to participate. So I grabbed a camera and left the office around 12:30 p.m. I hadn’t gone 20 yards when I got a good shot of HRT bus driver Marguerite Warren, sitting in the driver’s seat reading the News-Herald waiting on her bus to fill up.
From there I ventured down Washington Street through downtown. I saw Andy Damiani walking the street and wanted to get a shot of that, because no picture of downtown Suffolk would be complete without him in it. Unfortunately, there was no place to park so I went down East Washington. Just across the tracks I came upon the gentleman dressed in the suit hawking the Muslim newspaper. &uot;What a great shot,&uot; I thought, &uot;he’s a fixture on our roads and we need to have him in our section.&uot;
I parked my car, got out and waited while he completed a transaction.
When he was finished and returning to his work, I approached him, told him what I was doing and politely asked for permission to shoot his picture, smiling all the while.
&uot;NO! YOU MAY NOT TAKE MY PICTURE,&uot; he growled, as he got so close to me I could feel his breadth.
&uot;IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PICTURE, COME DOWN HERE TONIGHT ABOUT 9:30 AND SEE ALL OF OUR YOUNG WOMEN WALKING UP AND DOWN HERE SELLING THEMSELVES FOR CRACK.&uot;
It was about then I began to think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea and began to back pedal slightly and look for an opportunity to escape.
He moved forward.
&uot;IT’S YOU PEOPLE WHO DO THAT TO US. YOU HAVE THE HELICOPTERS AND AIRPLANES TO FLY THE CRACK IN HERE. WE DON’T HAVE THE HELICOPTERS. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.&uot;
I was certain that at any moment he was going to start wailing on me. &uot;Not me,&uot; I said panic-stricken as I tried to make my way back to my car. &uot;I’m afraid to fly.&uot;
He followed me across East Washington Street, yelling, &uot;IF YOU WANT TO TAKE A PICTURE OF SOMEONE, GO TO CHICAGO AND TAKE A PICTURE OF MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN – HE’S THE ONLY ONE WITH THE ANSWERS.&uot;
Despite my relief at being able to extract myself from the situation, the man’s comments gnawed at me the rest of the afternoon and evening. I don’t frequent East Washington Street at night, but if what he says is true, then we’ve got a long way to go revitalize downtown Suffolk, and while some shrubbery and new street lights are nice, they will not mask the ugliness or darkness.
I kind of lost my enthusiasm for the project after that. I drove around Suffolk another couple hours and shot just a few pictures, focusing my efforts on meek looking women and small children.
Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.