Every now and then, while I’m out on a photo assignment, I find myself the recipient of a volunteer photo assistant. It’s usually someone connected to the event at which I’m photographing; someone just trying to help me out.
The latest incident of the unannounced and unwanted photo assistant took place on the feast of the Assumption while photographing a Mass and rosary procession at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis. For those unfamiliar with the shrine, it received international attention last December when Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay issued a declaration proclaiming that appearances (called apparitions) by Mary, the mother of Jesus, in 1859 were found to be valid and therefore worthy of belief by the faithful.
This Mass and rosary procession, an annual event since the 1860s, attracted about 3,000 people — double the crowd at last year’s Assumption celebration.
At the conclusion of the rosary procession around the five-acre shrine grounds, I spotted a young boy near the entrance of the shrine’s chapel. He was checking out a group of nicely dressed gentlemen whom we know as the fourth degree Knights of Columbus. The KCs were entering the chapel to change into their civvies. Shooting with a 16-35 mm Nikon zoom lens, I took a series of photos from behind the boy.
I settled into my spot at the top of the steps, just a few feet from the youngster. I knew that Bishop Ricken would soon file past us. This could be the photo of the day, I thought.
But my “assistant” made sure that the photo I imagined in my mind would never make it to my camera — or to Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country. My photo assistant had no idea that the boy was a focal point of the picture. She thought he was blocking my view, so in an instant, from the corner of my eye, I saw a hand grab the boy and move him out of the way. “No, no, no,” I said. “Oh, I thought he was in your way,” assistant said.
Assistant then told me she would grab the young photo prop and put him back. No, I said. I didn’t elaborate how staging photos isn’t a good journalistic practice. Instead, I was thankful just to get a few images of the boy and the Knights.
I need to hire a photo assistant who can be on the lookout for unwanted photo assistants. Here are three photos in a series from the day.