Sunday, April 22, 2007

Images Old and New

Winning photo of Iraqi girl, mother and brother. Russell Klika, a photographer I worked with in the early ‘90s, has won First Place in the coveted Military Photographer of the Year contest for a portrait of an Iraqi girl. The award was not a surprise. He'd won his share in San Diego when we worked together at the Vista Press, a daily (and now-closed) newspaper in north San Diego County. In 1992, Russell and I traveled to Los Angeles to cover the L.A. riots. It was an adrenalin-packed, no-sleep assignment in the days following the acquittal of the officers involved in the Rodney King police beating. Klika is one of the best photogs I've ever worked with. He’s up there with Clay Myers, a Best Friends’ magazine and website photographer I worked with on the streets of New Orleans as volunteers rescued pets left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (also a sleepless, nonstop assignment). Watching veterans work in the field like these two is a sight to see. My job is to simply step out of their way as they do their work. It's equally amazing to see the photos afterward. Combat Photographer and Army Staff Sergeant Russell Klika (left) Russell and I once went on assignment about 250 miles off the San Diego shore. It was in 1992 and it was just after the USS Kitty Hawk had come out of mothballs a new and refurbished ship and returned to her homeport of San Diego. We flew out of Coronado’s North Island in a P-3 radar plane and landed on the Kitty Hawk, missing the first wire and catching the second. The force -- of going from who knows how fast to zero -- threw us forward, because the seats were fixed backward, in a 14-seater with nothing but servicemen aboard, and Russell and me. After we landed, my face must have been ashen, because one of the airmen looked at me, then asked Russell, "Is she OK?" Russell peered at me from his seat, then said, "No." I barely remember deplaning and walking across the tarmac and into the ship, and then to the bridge (basically from where the ship is steered). When we made it onto the bridge, the fleet commander was waiting to give us a tour and brief us on training exercises at sea. As soon as he saw me, the admiral barked at one of his men, “Get her down to sickbay!” (whereupon a medic put a Dramamine patch behind my ear and in no time I was fine). Russell laughs when he says, "I still tell that story." Seeing Russell’s photos again takes me back 15 years to those assignments at Camp Pendleton when Marines returned from deployment in Operation Desert Storm, and, as a pool reporter and Russell as a pool photographer, following then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher around the base for eight hours. Or of the man with a pipe during the L.A. riots threatening a SWAT officer and Russell was the only photographer there to catch the moment. And when we were surrounded in Russell's pickup by angry residents armed with sticks and baseball bats and Russell hit the pedal to run through them and escape. We also went into makeshift migrant camps in the back country of San Diego's North County to interview workers, both of us only able to speak broken Spanish. Russell's images and my stories always seemed to pull together and compliment the other for a decent news package. It’s nice to know he’s back at work capturing those moments, this time as a combat photographer. To see more of Russell's photos, go to: Russell's Homepage

1 comment:

Pearl said...

Hi, Cathy! We worked together a few weeks ago at the Sign Show in Vegas. I finally dug out my notes and stumbled across the paper on which I scribbled your Web site, which eventually led me here to your blog. I must say I'm both humbled and fascinated by your bio. You've done it all, haven't you? Now I'm going to have to go out and buy your books so I can get them signed by a REAL author. Won't my friends be impressed now?

It was a pleasure working with you and the rest of the crew, and I hope our paths cross again. You're my new role model (as I sit here not writing a book. Again.)

My e-mail is Send me a note if you ever make it to Memphis en route to New Orleans or other exotic ports of call.

Paula Weis