For two years in the mid-1950s, Swiss photographer Robert Frank traveled across the country taking photographs.
His visual account of the U.S. resulted in the influential photography book “The Americans.” Frank took 28,000 shots during his trip, of which only 83 were selected for the publication. A recent book celebrating the 50th anniversary of “The Americans” includes contact sheets of Frank’s photos with book choices highlighted. It’s a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how Frank photographed his subjects and offers insight on his editing choices.
Staff photographers also take thousands of photographs each year, with only a fraction getting published in the newspaper. Images that make the paper have to have a respectable visual value to warrant them going to press. In addition, they must do at least one or more of the following: educate, illustrate, inform or entertain. Besides the fact that there’s not enough room in the paper, there are good reasons why you don’t get to view all the photographs we take. Here are a few.
- Technical error: Incorrect exposure, bad focus, subject not in frame, motion blur.
- Subject error: Eyes closed, funny facial expression, bad hair, spinach in teeth, dog won’t sit.
- Photographer error: Missed the important moment, visually boring, didn’t get names of subjects.
How we make decisions on what we publish comes down to the visual creativity of an image, its ability to clearly show a particular moment or person and the judgment of the photographer and editor. For many events, we post photo galleries of additional images at our online site. This is another way of providing readers additional content and coverage of events. Like viewing Robert Frank’s original contact sheets, these galleries can provide different perspectives.
Take a look at Nick Krug’s photo gallery from the KU men’s basketball game against Pittsburg State. Within the gallery is a three-shot sequence of a Marcus Morris dunk. All are visually compelling and capture a key moment in the game. Now you be the editor. Which image would you choose to lead the sports page?