Argo did well at the Academy Awards this past week. Good movie. It transported me to another place in time, which is what good movies are supposed to do.
Back to 1980, when Iran held the hostages, and the attention of virtually everyone in this county. 444 days! It was endless for us, unimaginable for the hostages. I was there at West Point when they came back on buses from Stewart AFB, but those chromes have been lost over time. Managed to hang onto a chrome from lower Broadway and the ticker tape welcome home parade. I shinnied up a light pole with my cameras and perched, quite uncomfortably, on a traffic sign for several hours as the parade made its way. Thankfully, it was quite cold, and my ass just froze, so I was able to ignore the fact that I was basically giving myself a street sign wedgie. My positioning, and the inclusion of Liberty St. was, of course, not an accident.
I wasn’t in Iran for any of it, of course. I was just a pup photog, a staff still shooter for the ABC television network. My weeks consisted of shuttling around, making pix of network anchors, Monday Night Football, Susan Lucci’s new relationship on All My Children, and the like. (It’s been fun this week, being at Gulf Photo Plus, with all the wonderfully talented instructors. David Burnett, who did the true signature work in Iran at the time is here, and I showed him the picture above. He checked his computer, and came up with a terrific picture he shot of the same parade. He was about five blocks north of my position.)
I also covered a fair amount of politics, working the conventions, the Reagan campaign, and his inauguration. (Always been jealous of photo enthusiast Howard Baker in the background, and his angle.)
Roone Arledge, ABC’s maestro of sports and news, launched a late night news program called Nightline, specifically in response to the hostage crisis. It was helmed by an estimable journalist, Ted Koppel. I got dispatched to Washington to make pictures of Ted as a newly minted anchor. We got along well. (I endeared myself by grabbing his Nikkormat camera, damaged since his days covering Vietnam, from him and getting it repaired by Marty Forscher in NY.) Little did we know that, spurred by this singular, ongoing news event, both he and Nightline were about to become a long running journalistic institution.
I shot this (rueful shake of the head here) with all I had in terms of lights, which at the time were one Dynalite head, and a couple Heiland slave units, which were subtle as a lightning strike and about as controllable. And of course, my setting consisted of highly reflective, bulbous TV monitors galore. Did my best. Guessed at everything. Had no Polaroid to proof the shot with. Just set up the lights in what appeared to be a logical array, shot a roll of Kodachrome, and hoped for the best. The picture, upon release, ended up getting wide play, largely because Ted had become the definitive, reasonable voice of entire evolving crisis.
Below is my high tech lighting case at the time, a holdover from the NY Daily News. Still have it. I think at this point, if I were an equipment case, I would look a bit like it. Battered, well traveled, held together by tape.
Next week, I get back to parsing out the current Geographic story, talking about the closer image, the cropped images etc. I’ll ask you guys to be the art director in a couple of picture choices.