Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nervy Photographers and Tom Horn Anyone?

June 29, 2011

When we were at the Brian Lebel Old West Show & Auction last weekend, Ken Amorosano brought along his video equipment so we could shoot and post the bidding and share the excitement of the auction.

Before the auction started we were given instructions on what we could shoot and what we could not. We were told to be respectful of the bidders and shoot them from the back and not to get in front of them.

Ken set up the True West camera about half way back from the front and the auctioneer, along the outside wall at the end of a row of seats. He taped his business cards to four seats (the guy comes out of PR and was trained by Dick Clark himself) to reserve the seats for our crew. You wouldn't think that something that small would intimidate anyone, but it preserved those seats for the entire show as if they had razor wire on them. Amazing.

For the first 200 lots, all the photographers in the room respected the no fly zone (we're about to segue to C.S. Fly and you'll see the connection), but when the Billy tintype loomed, things got a little more gonzo and sensing an opening, Ken picked up his sticks and went right to the front of the room to shoot. He wasn't alone.

Ken got great shots of the actual auction, in fact, I predict they will someday be part of the historic record of the event. All of which reminds me, that to be a good photographer, you have to be nervy, pushy really, to get the shot that everyone wants to see.

Case in point: in 1886 at Canyon de los Embudos (Canyon of the Funnels), photographer C.S. Fly got wind of an opportunity to photograph a peace parlay between General George Crook and Geronimo. First he had to travel in a wagon over very rough roads 90 miles from his studio in Tombstone (site of the O.K. Corral fight), crossing the Mexican border at Agua Prieta and then across some very rough country with glass plates in the bed of the wagon! I have been to the canyon and it's still extremely rough country. And, keep in mind, after he exposed them, he had to travel all the way back to Tombstone without breaking them.

No doubt Fly was given instructions not to push his way into the negotiations or disrupt them in any way. Consequently, here is his first shot:

This is the kind of shot you get when you follow the rules. I believe it's Captain Bourke who comments that Fly was as "nervy as a drummer" (a salesman) pushing his way past the guys in the foreground, so he could get his second shot:

An iconic photo. A classic for the ages. Perfectly capturing the moment. Now, Larry Ball is doing a new book on Tom Horn and he claims Tom Horn is just out of this photograph and that you can just see his arm and he's wearing a white shirt and he's sitting next to Bourke. Hmmmmmm.

"A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the right picture is worth $2.3 million dollars."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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