Originally published on our blog The Dark Slide on January 15, 2008.
Photographers are a curious lot when it comes to the things we collect. Every shooter I've ever known has a closet filled with boxes upon boxes of odd mementos, faded press passes sporting more youthful (and thinner) headshots, and favorite photos made by our friends and idols.
I'm no different. Though I have copies of my own photos signed by the likes of Oprah and Jimmy Carter, I'd be more likely to share with you some of my more offbeat collectibles, like the official candy bar of the Million Man March (it always seemed a bit off-message to me), a cigar I picked up near the bombed out Commandancia in Panama that reads "Antonio Noriega" around the band, or the signed copy of Catch-22 I secured when I photographed Joseph Heller at the USA Today building in Arlington. (Oh, wait. I gave that to my childhood friend, David Fischer. You so owe me, David.)
One of my all-time favorites comes courtesy of the international airport in Riyad, Saudi Arabia. It's a bright orange puffy envelope used by the airline for items that can't be brought aboard an aircraft. The items, presumably collected from passengers before a flight, would be given back to said flyers upon landing. A pen knife, you're thinking, or a pair of scissors, right? No. Printed right there on the envelope, in big, bold letters is the following warning: "If item removed from passenger is valuable, like a gold dagger,..."
Like a gold dagger! I'd love to see the folks at TSA deal with that one.
I do have a couple of things that aren't frivolous, of course. One of them is a print of one of the most famous photographs ever taken, signed by the photographer. In fact, it's so famous an image that I really didn't need a photo here. All I really need to say is "girl runs down street screaming after napalm attack" and you'll instantly conjure the image. There aren't too many photographs that have that much visual recognition.
The photograph was taken by Nick Ut, one of the true living legends of photojournalism. I consider myself incredibly luck to have worked next to Nicky for the couple of years I was in Los Angeles during the early nineties. I was shooting for UPI and Nick was with AP, of course, the same outfit he made the napalm photo for. We were competitors, technically speaking, but Nick doesn't see anyone as a competitor once the scrum is over. He is a teddy bear of a guy, someone so polite, so caring, so lovable that you sometimes have to remind yourself that he took one of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century.
photograph by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times
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