30 years of Photojournalism


Pope John Paul II in St. John's, Newfoundland during his 1984 tour of Canada. Photo by Greg Locke © 2009

A few events collided this week to make me finally get around to a time sucking chore I have been trying to ignore like a cheque presentation news conference. It's winter, my traditional time to clean up the previous years work, do a final edit and get the the stuff archived and indexed, and I am surrounded by boxes of old slides and negatives …that stuff we used to make photos on before these new fangled digital thingies. Also, someone pointed out I have been doing photojournalism and documentary photography in Newfoundland and internationally for 30 years now and suggested that, just maybe, I should be assembling a retrospective exhibition.
…great, just great…

So, the task has begun. The scanning of more than 30 years of 35mm slides, negatives and prints where the original negs have been lost. Indeed, a darkroom fire in 1986 destroyed a lot of personal work from the late 1970's through 1982. Thankfully, the valuable stuff was on file with the agencies I worked with. …that reminds me, I need to do my offsite backup of my digital files.

I can't remember not having a camera so I can't say when I first started making photos, certainly my pre-teen years and I was the geek who worked on school yearbooks in Jr. High and high school. The camera was another tool in some obsessive need to document the people around me, their culture and tell their stories. I eventually got evolved with the student newspaper, The Muse, (now online but then hot wax halftones and paste up) at Memorial University. While at university I turned “Pro” doing piece work for United Press International (UPI), The Newfoundland Herald, The Evening Telegram and anyone willing to pay …fun yes, but always a business first.

But the 1984 Papal Tour of Canada by Pope John Paul II was what I consider the big turning point in deciding to move from writing and documentary film to photojournalism and documentary photography solely. It was my first major international news event and I got to see how the serious pros worked. …when not getting the picture was not a option. Which can't be said without giving heaps of thanks to legendary photo editor Bob Carroll and his team at UPC/UPI in the 1980's for letting me into their world and passing along the skills (Thank, Bob …and Andy! …if you're reading)

With the late 80's financial problems of UPI and the closure of its Canadian offices this team would be picked up by Reuters when they built their international news picture division.

It's just a coincidence that this photo of Pope John Paul II came out of the box first.
As stuff gets scanned I'll add it to the 30 Years of Photojournalism folder over there in the left side column. It won't be in any particular order, just my favourites as they come out of the boxes and binders.  ….maybe my favourite photo of Frank Moores will be next.

…hmmm, I wonder if I can train my 9 year old to run the scanners?

I worked pretty exclusively with 35mm slide film. Fujichrome 100, 400,  Ektachrome 64 and Kodachrome 25, 64, 200, for magazine work. The early days of the wire services it was Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5. In the mid 1980's colour neg was the standard for newspapers and wire services. It's sad that the young photographers today never got to use and know these films and their different characteristics. The decision of which film to use on a magazine assignment was a critial decision and could decide the tone and feel of the final published work.

For this project we'll be using a Canon film scanner and an Agfa flatbed scanner for fine work. For bulk scanning we have welding some old and new technologies. We will be coupling a Nikon D2x to an old school Bessler slide duplicator!!

Camera RAW files will be processed with Adobe Raw. Processing software will be Adobe Photoshop PS3 with Bridge handling the IPTC, captioning and archiving. A bunch of plug-ins, utilities and scripts/actions to speed up the agonizing process, yet ensure best quality.

So, let's begin with a Pope!

(NOTE: These photos will be available for purchase and licensing through NL Press.)