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Earth Days Past

Apr 25

In Stories, Thoughts at 6:29am


We celebrated Earth Day this past week. This observance has been around for a while now, and back in the 70’s I was occasionally assigned to cover some of the events. I shot the above for UPI one year, at an Earth Day observance at the UN. I recall it being the usual, uh, cluster….k, in NY press terminology, with all the papers, the wires, and the TV folks angling for angles and exclusives. I was working for the formidable drill instructor of editors, Larry DeSantis, or LD, as we called him, who told me in no uncertain terms to get the muckety-mucks. In color.

Which was just something you did back then, even though what was required, photographically, was positively gymnastic, compared to now. I showed up with three cameras, two in B&W for basic, get your butt on the wire quick coverage, and then a third with transparency material for the famous folks. Seeing as the camera meters back in the day were famously unreliable, I also had an incident meter, which I recall was a Gossen Luna Pro. I had taken all the Photomic heads off my F2 cameras, and replaced them with plain prisms, so none of my cameras actually even had a meter in them. There was, I guess you could say, a lot of interpolation going on in your head as a shooter at that point, which is a fancy word for guesswork. At any rate, I guessed my way to this shot of UN Ambassador Andrew Young with Robert Redford. It’s not a good photo. But it got play, ’cause they were muckety-mucks.

There were numerous calls for Earth Day photos this past week, such as the collaborative effort displayed by Google+ and TIME magazine. Thought about rummaging for that, but it became one of the three or four dozen things I didn’t do this week. It did cause me to think about shooting the picture below, though.

I was on the edge of the Rift Valley in Kenya, in spring, about now, actually, working with Kenyan long distance runners on a story for the National Geographic about human performance. No cell phones, email, computers, texting, or Instagramming. Just sunrise and sweat. Waiting for the light to come up, the runners stretched out, and I shot this young man, whose arms seemed to embrace the sun. In the Rift Valley, every day is Earth Day.

Later, I shot him in a splash of light, in his modest dorm.


And later still, I shot other runners, looking at the wall of winners. Young men all, hoping their legs would run them to glory.

Have a great weekend, everybody. More tk…

Bill says:

on April 25, 2014 at 7:58 am

ahh…the great LD!! Larry was probably the best editor there was in the industry. A gruff New Yorker with a heart of gold. I can still see him examining my film with his loupe. If he didn’t like what he saw, he’d just throw your negs in the trash. He was feared, and respected, and loved, all at the same time! If you had a thick skin, you learned from him. A LOT. And you became a much better photographer because of him. If you were thin-skinned and easily offended, then you had no business being a wire shooter in the first place.

Truly a great man, and a legend in his own time. We still exchange Christmas cards to this day. I’m proud to have had the honor of working with (for!) him at several major events.

HaraldH says:

on April 25, 2014 at 8:10 am

Thanks a lot for sharing great pics and great memories. H

Ken Eng says:

on April 25, 2014 at 8:41 am

Joe, you continue to inspire me, Your work is Great!
Ken Eng

Benjamín says:

on April 25, 2014 at 10:00 am

Amazing job Mr. Mcnally!


Joe McNally says:

on April 25, 2014 at 11:18 am

absolutely! LD was not for the faint of heart, but he was stone cold excellent as an editor….

nigel says:

on April 25, 2014 at 11:24 am

And what a wonderful place – spent time at the Karen Blixen Museum when I was there! A long way from the maddening crowd.

Did you try the Bangkok Restaurant – Kenya was a blast! Tusker Beer!

See you soon – I hope.


James says:

on April 26, 2014 at 9:21 am

That last photo, looking at the pictures on the wall. Damn. That is such a great photo in so many ways.

Shawn says:

on April 27, 2014 at 3:48 am

Beautiful, awe-inspiring work, especially the second picture.. Thanks for sharing

Tyler says:

on April 30, 2014 at 9:18 am

I am always so inspired when I see your work Mr. McNally! I appreciate you being that example. I love the picture of the Kenyan embracing the sun as he stretches so early in the morning. Great job! Thanks for sharing with us.

Paul Hara says:

on May 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Wonderful visual storytelling as usual. Thanks! Chupa mbili za tusker tafadhali!

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