Author Topic: Great Moments in Photojournalism  (Read 4264 times)

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Offline W1RC

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Great Moments in Photojournalism
« on: July 26, 2013, 09:35:45 AM »
Before television almost all news and feature stories were disseminated by the printed media, ie: newspapers and magazines.  Most cities had several daily newspapers and competition between them was always very brisk.  New York City was undoubtedly the fiercest market in the newspaper business and advertising revenue was the prize.

In 1928 the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS pulled off the biggest photojournalistic coup of all time but it was sleazy to say the least.

In January of that year New York housewife and convicted murderer Ruth Snyder was scheduled to be executed by electrocution in Sing Sing prison's electric chair.  Members of the media along with other witnesses routinely attended these executions but no photography was permitted.

Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer working on special assignment to the New York Daily News, was covering the story.  Photographers were not allowed in the death chamber but, posing as a reporter, Howard had an ingeniously constructed miniature plate camera taped to his ankle with a cable shutter release threaded up his leg into his trouser pocket.

Seated in the front row of the witness bench Howard lifted his trouser cuff.  At the exact moment the electrical current was applied Howard pressed the cable release in his pocket and the final moment of Ruth Snyder's execution was caught on film.

A few hours later an EXTRA edition hit the streets.  It was the biggest seller in the paper's history.

Howard's photo ran on the cover of the DAILY NEWS and affiliated papers for three days. 

This is the raw photograph that Howard snapped. 
Obviously he didn't have the capability to frame the shot but the darkroom boys did the rest

New York State prison officials were not amused.  They were highly embarrassed and so were legitimate journalists.  Tom Howard was never permitted to cover an execution again anywhere in the country and strict security measures were instituted to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again.  It never did.

Reporters show how the camera was strapped to Howard's ankle.

Detail shot of the shutter release cable threaded up Howard's trouser leg and into his pocket.

The camera was owned for a while by its inventor, Miller Reese Hutchison, and eventually it ended up in the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington DC.