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Ted’s “war stories”

Here is a selection of stories from Ted’s long career, all posted during the past few weeks.

Still life

“Could you take a picture of my mother?” inquired the female telephone caller. Bill Lingard, my partner and fellow photographer replied, “Yes, when would you like to come to the studio, I’m sure we can fit you in during the next few days?”

“I’m sorry it will have to be tomorrow before noon, as the service is at two,” was her reply. The service she referred to was her mother’s funeral service. She did not have any pictures of her mother and this was the last opportunity for a photograph before the coffin was closed.

So there we were the next morning, Bill, studio lights, ladder, the lady in the coffin and me. The scene was right out of a weird horror movie. Bill who is a master portrait photographer, tried to light the old lady with Rembrandt lighting, but the sides of the coffin created a shadow over her face. So he found a pillow and stuffed it behind her head to lift it above the edge of the coffin and the lights made her look alive. Sort of!

Bill was up the ladder making his first exposure when the daughter arrived, looking at her mother she commented on how lifelike she looked, but wondered if Bill could open her eyes?

For a moment I thought he was going to fall off the ladder, but maintaining his Lancashire composure, he explained he would just as soon do the eye opening by retouching the negatives.

I had to leave on assignment before he completed the retouching and when I returned I asked how she looked. “Not bad, a bit starry-eyed, but the daughter thought she looked alive.” What more could he say”? “There isn’t anything like shooting still life,”
he replied with a smile.

The Green Line

Munich, Germany.1972 Summer Olympics:

The security guard had Graham Bezant’s accreditation card in one hand and a colour ID code book in the other. He was yelling in German and Graham was yelling back in his Australian-accented English, neither understanding the other. It scared the hell out of me as I knew what was going on. Although several positions back in the security line I figured they’d have me next. Graham, a staff photographer for the Toronto Star, had just been caught with a forged “Green Line” on his Media accreditation card .

I had initiated the forging, in fact the card hanging around my neck was also a faked photographer’s pass. It wasn’t that we didn’t have accreditation, we did, but it was for the sport reporter seats, but didn’t allow access to the photo positions. The difference was a thin “Green Line” diagonally across the face of the card indicating you were a photographer.

After a few days frustration attempting to shoot the Games with Reporter Accreditation I wondered if I could fake a photo accreditation? After all it was only a thin Green line. I examined a couple of photographer passes very carefully then hit on the idea of using a felt tip marker to draw a “Green Line” on my pass. Searching all over Munich for a pen of the right colour, just any green wouldn’t work, the security staff had colour ID code books with official colour keys. They rarely used them in any event. Until?

After a few days searching I found one right under my nose in the Main Press Center boutique, exactly the perfect colour match.

Do you remember the war movie “The Great Escape” when documents were forged to get out? We now started our plan “The Great Entry” to get in. Very carefully a single strip of scotch tape was placed diagonally across the card. The “Green Line” drawn on it rather than on the actual card surface, in the event of possible discovery it could be peeled off leaving a legitimate reporter’s card. Two more strips placed on the first to give the correct width to the line, these were peeled off after the marker was used leaving clean edges to appear actually printed. Now for the colour, with one quick stroke of the marker it was done. Peeling off the two extra strips of tape I found myself holding a “Photographers Accreditation”. I checked it against several legal cards, it matched beautifully. But it had yet to pass the big test, getting past the guards 20/20 vision.

Here we were entering the Main Stadium with a couple of photographers as some cover and Graham ahead of us in a shouting match with a security guy! Damn! My first re-action was to peel off the plastic strip with the green line. However, what the hell give it a try, live dangerously! I passed the guards, my accreditation boldly hanging on a chain around my neck, I was in. It was so easy I couldn’t believe it. Graham on the other hand was caught! As in “The Great Escape” if you were caught you were on your own. I just walked on by without a glance.

Some time you just gotta do what you gotta do to get your pictures.

Great ride! 🙂

OK 68 you’re in this one!

The roar of the engine was deafening, dust from the dirt track making it difficult to breathe and I’m trying to take pictures. This was a time long before mini-cams were installed in racing cars to take pictures. You had to ride in the car, a somewhat exhilarating but crazy photo position.

The car I’m in was supposed to be a photo car allowing me the opportunity to photograph the race without the driver concentrating on winning the competition. As we left the pits he was informed, “OK 68 your in this!” My first reaction was to get out and I yelled to the driver to drop me. He just smiled and yelled back, “Don’t worry it’ll be a better ride!”

The pit crew had pulled seat and shoulder harnesses firmly; they didn’t want me flying around inside the car if it turned over or crashed. Strapped in the seat so tightly it was impossible to turn in any direction to shoot, all I could see were picture situations flashing by on either side and me locked in the seat.

In a moment of desperation I unfastened the shoulder harness to escape its restraining grip. Getting the picture was all that mattered; everything else is secondary. Of course this idea is stupid. The driver concentrating on the race had not noticed me sitting un-harnessed and shooting out the side window. His moment to gain the lead occurred on the front straight as we passed the Official Starter, who with his various coloured flags controls the race. Yellow for caution, red to stop the race if there is a major accident or black to eject a car from the event.

Safety is upper most in the Starter’s mind. So when we flash by him and he sees me unbuckled and shooting out the window, on the next lap he black flagged the driver. Who at that moment; is two laps away from winning the race.

We immediately went into the car pit where both the driver and crew tore a strip off me a foot wide. I had just cost them the major prize money of the day.

I considered it too dangerous to ask for another ride, not from being in the car; but from the pit crew wrath.

Photographer Overboard

My tourism assignment was to illustrate people enjoying themselves boating. The kind with beautiful models, wind blown hair, smiling faces and not a care in the world.

The shoot went very well as we, model boat and photographer boat cruised up and down the lake doing various versions of happy boating people. When I was satisfied I waved the others back to the dock.

My boat driver asked, “is that a wrap?”  “Yes, let’s go get a Scotch!”  And before I sat down he hit the throttle and turned the boat at the same time, immediately launching me and camera airborne over the side.

Quickly coming about to pick me up. he leaned over the side reaching to give me a hand and asked.. “Was that Scotch and water or soda?”

Trust me it may sound funny, it wasn’t!

The Photo OP

Israel, 1967 — On the opening day of conflict the media nearly became their own story during a “War Zone”  bus tour. On a road in southern Israel the press bus became stuck in the sand and everyone got off to push, those who could not participate wandered off the road looking for souvenirs. Suddenly an Israeli officer yelled at them to get back on the road as there were land mines out there! Now try to imagine a dozen journalists attempting to step as lightly as though they were walking on eggs.

Photographers on the other hand realizing the photo potential were camera’s at the ready waiting for the inevitable “boom!”  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, it didn’t happen. As everyone returned safely, one photographer smilingly re-marked, “Damn there goes a Pulitzer!”

Later we drove deeper into the Sinai passing an Israeli tank on our side of the road and when we were about fifty yards ahead of it, it blew-up with a window shattering roar and that of every ones nerves .

The real unnerving thing; we had just driven over the same stretch of mined road!

During that same day, we arrived in a small kibbutz which earlier had been under shell fire from Egyptian forces. The villagers were frantic at our arrival as they feared all the dust and people moving about would attract more shelling. They were assured by the military group leader this would not happen. He then proceeded to hold a press briefing on high ground where we could observe Israeli artillery fire landing on the Egyptians.

Explaining with some satisfaction the officer said, “Those are our shells exploding on the enemy.” A few moments later there was a completely different sound and a reporter yelled out, ” Yeah and that’s the Egyptian’s sending them back!” Nothing like returning fire!

Everyone dived for cover. Then back on the bus and out of there!

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