Just Above Sunset
November 21, 2004 - If they move... shoot 'em! (A column about... Photography!)

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World’s Laziest Journalist

Sunday, November 21, 2004

By Bob Patterson


Life has returned to Los Angeles.  No, I don’t mean that the media liberals, who went into a brief state of cardiac arrest after learning the election results, have managed to get their hearts beating again; I mean that the legendary magazine that was the measure of excellence for photojournalism is available again every Friday as an insert in the Los Angeles Times.

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The final page. "Parting Shot," has morphed into their opening bid to get your attention in a feature titled: 360 degrees Life Looks Around.  Recently the subject matter has ranged from a selection of murals, a Bruce Springsteen Vote for Change concert, silly hats, to a variety of monkey portraits.


The last inside page now features a picture puzzle such as: match the photos of six drivers with the six cars shown, match the tattoos with the owner, identify the mascot’s team, find the top cat (winner of the best in show) in the portraits of the various feline breeds in competition, and a rank the Halloween masks by sales quiz.


The November 12 issue used a black and white photo (of actor Tom Hanks) in what might have been a successful bid to evoke the built in nostalgia the magazine’s name evokes.  Younger readers who want a fast update on the magazine’s strong brand identity in the photo world, would do well to look through the new book "The Great Life Photographers" that features work by Robert Capa, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gordon Parks, W. Eugene Sith, Harry Benson, Margaret Bourke-White and others.


The prospect of getting a "spot news" photo that was used by Life was a once in a lifetime event that inspired amateurs and professionals alike.  (It calls to mind a personal anecdote that would require quoting the old Maxwell Smart line:  “Missed it by that much, chief!”  It did teach a tough lesson: if you are going to shoot breaking news in color, choose Ektachrome not Kodachrome because it is (was) easier to get the Ektachrome processed quickly.)


Back in the fifties various newspapers in the US used to join forces with Kodak and hold a weekly photo contest during the summer.  It got a strong reader response.  These days many people are carrying around digital cameras in their pockets.  It seems like it would be a good idea for the magazine to have a weekly feature displaying the best of the readers’ photos.  They could use the resources of the Internet and tap into a vast source for material and a way to build audience enthusiasm.  (Maybe I should charge a consultant’s fee if they adopt the suggestion and it builds circulation?) 


Web surfers, who want to check out top-notch examples of photojournalism, would do well to visit campaigndesk.org (which has changed its official name to CRJ Daily) every business day.  They have a photo editor who knows what he is doing and he always features a fine example of the still photographer’s version of contemporary journalism.


(Okaaaay, we’ll add: he or she.  Satisfied?)


Paris Match is for France what Life was for the USA.  They are still a weekly magazine and available in Los Angeles  The French photo news magazine is on the web here.


Foto fans might also want to surf over to the German magazines should check out Bunte and the famous Stern magazine.


Web surfing photo aficionados might also want to try this Yahoo page with the day’s best news photos.


Photo blogs?  You want photo blogs?  You can’t handle photo blogs, but if you insist: this, or this German language one.


This has been a very sad year in photography.  This year the photo world lost: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, George Silk, and Eddie Adams among others.


[Editor’s note: Helmut Newton died in a car crash on Sunset Boulevard in July as he was leaving his western home at the Chateau Marmont, a block from the Just Above Sunset headquarters – see The Hollywood Eye in these pages.]


In trying to find a closing quote for this column we discovered one website devoted exclusively to quotations of/for/by and about photography and the people who are or were famous in that field of endeavor.  The website can be found here.


In The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, edited by Robert Andrews, Susan Sontag has been quoted as saying: "It is not altogether wrong to say that there is no such thing as a bad photograph – only less interesting, less relevant, less mysterious ones.: 


Now, if the disk jockey will play (what else) Paul Simon’s song Kodachrome, (Come on, sing along!) we’ll be out of here in 1/100th of a second and be back next week.  Until then, pull out your old Weston V meter and have a Zone System week.






A photo worthy of Life – in their style –

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Copyright 2004 - Bill Hitzel for Just Above Sunset


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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Paris readers add nine hours....