Archivi categoria: story

The 2009 Air Force One Photo Op That Caused Panic in New York City

Back in 2009, someone had the bright idea of doing an iconic photo shoot showing Air Force One flying low over New York City. The airplane triggered panic among New Yorkers who thought it was another 9/11-style terrorist attack, causing people to evacuate buildings and run for their lives.

The photo shoot was approved by the director of the White House Military Office at the time, Louis Caldera, to create a new, eye-catching official photo of Air Force One, the name of the airplane carrying the President of the United States.

So at about 10 a.m. on Monday, April 27, 2009, a Boeing VC-25 (a military version of the 747) was flown low into New York City while being trailed by two F-16 fighter jets. It made three passes over the Statue of Liberty, making extremely sharp turns through the air.

The public wasn’t given any advance notice of the photo shoot, and there was a period of hysteria when people began noticing the low-flying airliner. People on the street began screaming and running for cover, and some buildings in NYC immediately issued evacuation orders.

Here are a few videos by bystanders that captured how people reacted:

It turns out neither then-NYC governor Michael Bloomberg nor then-US President Obama had known about the photo shoot until after it happened. Obama was reportedly furious and ordered an investigation into how it came to be.

“It was a mistake,” Obama said. “It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.”

“Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo-op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination,” said Bloomberg. “Poor judgment would be a nice ways to phrase it, but they did.”

The photo shoot was “crass insensitivity,” said George W. Bush homeland security advisor Fran Townsend. “I’d call this felony stupidity. This is probably not the right job for Mr. Caldera to be in if he didn’t understand the likely reaction of New Yorkers, of the mayor.”

Caldera issued a public apology the following week, saying, “I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.” Less than two weeks later, he resigned from his position.

In case you’re wondering, the photographers did get the shot they were looking for. Here’s the photo and a couple of others that were released by the U.S. government after the incident:

It’s estimated that the cost of this photo shoot was $328,835.

The Mysterious Case of the Returning Leica

In November 2016, I was in a transitional part of my life (I still am) and was considering selling my Leica M2 and switching to a digital Ricoh GR. I listed the camera on several Facebook camera trading groups and the Australian/UK Craigslist alternative, Gumtree. Long story short, I was scammed while trying to sell it.

The signs were obvious now, looking back, but I was desperate and really needed to believe what I was being told was true. I first received a text message suggesting that I keep in contact with a buyer via email. I then received an email that night saying that the buyer was an oceanographer and that they were in contact with me via a satellite Internet connection from a research ship.

A story like this surely would have tipped off anyone… if not for the fact that an uncle of mine has in fact worked on a marine research ship.

I was sent fake PayPal statements via email, and so I stupidly sent the camera to China, of all places. Days went by and the money never came. I only realized it was a scam when I received an email supposedly from PayPal, saying that there was an error in their system and I was overpaid by a thousand dollars and that I should wire another thousand to the buyer before receiving any of the money.

After grieving over the fact that I had lost the camera, I found myself in a pretty dire financial position and unable to pursue an internship position in Jakarta and potentially move to Melbourne sooner. But I eventually made it out over to Melbourne, and since arriving I sold my Ricoh and then here I was, a photographer in Melbourne with no camera.

Then suddenly out of the blue in March 2017 (4 months since I thought I had lost the Leica) it reappeared at my old address in Perth. From there, I got it sent over here to Melbourne by my aunt.

I once said that the M2 and I didn’t really bond, perhaps trying to mask the hurt of the fact that I had lost it. But clearly I wasn’t thinking straight as it’s a much more beautiful camera than I remember. After receiving it again this week, I shot a roll of Agfa Vista 400 (essentially Fuji Superia 400) and have had some low-res scans made of the images. Even these are wonderful.

I have many thoughts about abandoning film in favor of digital. While I still feel that the Ricoh GR is an incredibly amazing little camera, the issues of sensor dust kept plaguing the one I had. The GR belonging to my friend Justin also died out of the blue (a camera he bought due to my suggestion). All of these issues suggest to me that it is just not a robust system, especially if you are shooting everyday.

My particular M2 is over 50 years old and I guess here’s hoping for another 50. I’ll take it a sign from the universe that I’m basically supposed to be shooting film. Below are some other color photos I took before losing it last year.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that you should be patient when trading and selling your gear online. There could be a whole array of reasons why the camera came back (most likely that the thousand dollar transfer was the real scam and the address in China was fake), yet another thing I took back is that I guess sometimes miracles do happen and that film really does never die.


About the author: Emil Prakertia Raji is a photographer and musician based in Melbourne, Australia. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Storytelling in Street Photography

Many street photography tutorials discuss the same topics over and over—focussing techniques, composition, candid shooting, etc. However, I believe that one topic is underrepresented: storytelling.

Many composition principles in street photography are the same as in other kinds of photography. In addition, there needs to be some additional element of interest in the scene as well—an attention grabber. I mentioned in a previous post that, for example, Joel Meyerowitz’s key idea is relations.

In “Life of a Child“, I tried to express this element of relation. In belief, storytelling in street photography is another element of interest often overlooked.

Storytelling in Street Photography

Stories are sometimes subtile and covered by more prominent features, such as light or composition. Sometimes, however, stories are told very strongly, as with the famous picture V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

This picture is an excellent example of storytelling in street photography, as it is not very emphasized in many composition principles; yet still it has become one of the most iconic street photographs of all times. This can mostly be attributed to the story behind and around the picture that unfolds in the mind of the viewer. I would argue that some of the most famous street photographs have become famous because they tell a strong story and not because of their composition.

Not all stories require much action. In fact, the lack of action in a shot can sometimes open up the storytelling space for the viewer. “Old Man and the Sea 2” tries to achieve exactly this. By omitting the action, the photograph provides more possibilities for interpretation—it is opening up for storylines to unfold.

Photojournalism and Storytelling

Is street photography a form of photojournalism of the everyday life? Can one compose an image by directing the subject? I think there are no right and wrong answers. They will strongly depend on whether one wants to represent undiluted and honest every day life. In fact, as we know from photojournalism, already the framing (what to include, what to leave out), the perspective (from below, from above) the film type etc. represent a selection of the truth—one that the photographer sees and/or want to convey.

The viewer will, in addition, make her own selection and add her own phantasies. The final story imagined is probably a different one than the one shot. I guess, one has to go with what feels right. Most of the time I shoot candidly. But when opportunity arises, and the idea for a story emerges, I might get in touch with the subject and direct her or him. I discuss this in more detail here.

The final image then should on the one hand tell a story, while at the same time leave some space for imagination.

Storytelling Elements

The photographer can play with different storytelling elements. Below, I discuss a few alongside some examples from my portfolio. The list of storytelling elements can by no means be exhaustive but only illustrative, to give photographers some ideas for their own projects.

Key story line – All pictures that contain people contain also story lines. Some are quite clear, others are sidelines. The key story line is of course the prevalent one. The protagonist(s) in a photograph around which other storylines converge.

In the picture above, the two lovers are clearly the protagonists. The others play only a secondary role.

Process or Outcome – One can show a process or one can show the outcome. There are different reasons to pick either of them.

If the process in itself is very interesting (tying shoes isn’t), and one wants the audience not to miss the details in the production process, the former is a good choice. If one picks the outcome, then the process is subsumed. This one the one hand gives the viewer the opportunity to see the product, to tell him or herself the story of what the process might have been. It, however, also opens up the image for more story lines that one is distracted from when the process is in focus.

For example, would I have picked any of the photographs in which the woman in “the comfy shoes” is in the process of tying her shoes, the prominent story would be “ah, she is tying her comfy shoes, her feet must hurt from the high heels”. Picking the ended process, the present image allows other less prominent story lines to come forward: “ah, shoes (check); where is she looking, probably she is watching other people, or is she thinking, she does look very serious; why is she going home alone, oh, she is looking serious, might have to do with that, etc.”

The story that unfolds in the viewer’s head when action is not too dominant can sometimes make a picture with finished processes even more interesting.

Protagonist, antagonist, relationship – Some photographs come to life from the relationship they portray. This could be an antagonistic relationship, a friendship, or simply a correspondence.

Relationships require at least two subjects. But more than two subjects are also possible, of course. The facial expressions can also add to the storyline. For example, in “See Saw” below, the girl in the air is clearly excited and surprised. The lower girl’s expression shows determination.

In order to enhance the tension between the depicted relation, one can look for contrasts and connects in the picture and also in the subjects that one pics.

The two subjects in “Absence” create a tension through many elements: their backs are facing; one is white, one black, and they are dressed in opposite colours. At the same time they are connected through sitting on the same bench and both being immersed in their literature.

Emotions – Happiness, sadness, boredom, anger, frustration, all these emotions make very interesting subjects of a street photograph and add to the storyline. They can be seen as shortcuts of storytelling as emotions immediately unfold in a story. Furthermore, emotions empathically engage the viewer (much more than nondescript expressions of random shots of pedestrians).

Archetypes, virtues and vices represent some of the most prominent storytelling elements. The last picture illustrates motherhood, for example. In addition, we have the girl’s courage and curiosity. Particularly journalism photography centres around archetypes, virtues, and vices, as they are universally recognisable and have a strong effect on the viewer.

For example, Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” or “Tank Man” on Tiananmen Square in 1989 both portray heroism; however, in totally different ways.

These storytelling elements are merely a few examples. The list of elements is endless. Keeping the storytelling element in mind certainly helps selecting the more interesting photographs from your contact sheet. If keeping storytelling in mind, a street photography project can become the more interesting for both the photographer and the reader.

I believe that in the end, all photography is storytelling. Some stories are boring and some are exciting and engaging. A good storyteller tells the exciting and engaging ones.


About the author: Andrej Zwitter is an amateur photographer based in the Netherlands. He shoots a diverse range of styles, but believes that street photography in particular lays bare the soul of the photographer. To see more of his work on his blog. This article also appeared here.

Storytelling in Street Photography

Many street photography tutorials discuss the same topics over and over—focussing techniques, composition, candid shooting, etc. However, I believe that one topic is underrepresented: storytelling.

Many composition principles in street photography are the same as in other kinds of photography. In addition, there needs to be some additional element of interest in the scene as well—an attention grabber. I mentioned in a previous post that, for example, Joel Meyerowitz’s key idea is relations.

In “Life of a Child“, I tried to express this element of relation. In belief, storytelling in street photography is another element of interest often overlooked.

Storytelling in Street Photography

Stories are sometimes subtile and covered by more prominent features, such as light or composition. Sometimes, however, stories are told very strongly, as with the famous picture V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

This picture is an excellent example of storytelling in street photography, as it is not very emphasized in many composition principles; yet still it has become one of the most iconic street photographs of all times. This can mostly be attributed to the story behind and around the picture that unfolds in the mind of the viewer. I would argue that some of the most famous street photographs have become famous because they tell a strong story and not because of their composition.

Not all stories require much action. In fact, the lack of action in a shot can sometimes open up the storytelling space for the viewer. “Old Man and the Sea 2” tries to achieve exactly this. By omitting the action, the photograph provides more possibilities for interpretation—it is opening up for storylines to unfold.

Photojournalism and Storytelling

Is street photography a form of photojournalism of the everyday life? Can one compose an image by directing the subject? I think there are no right and wrong answers. They will strongly depend on whether one wants to represent undiluted and honest every day life. In fact, as we know from photojournalism, already the framing (what to include, what to leave out), the perspective (from below, from above) the film type etc. represent a selection of the truth—one that the photographer sees and/or want to convey.

The viewer will, in addition, make her own selection and add her own phantasies. The final story imagined is probably a different one than the one shot. I guess, one has to go with what feels right. Most of the time I shoot candidly. But when opportunity arises, and the idea for a story emerges, I might get in touch with the subject and direct her or him. I discuss this in more detail here.

The final image then should on the one hand tell a story, while at the same time leave some space for imagination.

Storytelling Elements

The photographer can play with different storytelling elements. Below, I discuss a few alongside some examples from my portfolio. The list of storytelling elements can by no means be exhaustive but only illustrative, to give photographers some ideas for their own projects.

Key story line – All pictures that contain people contain also story lines. Some are quite clear, others are sidelines. The key story line is of course the prevalent one. The protagonist(s) in a photograph around which other storylines converge.

In the picture above, the two lovers are clearly the protagonists. The others play only a secondary role.

Process or Outcome – One can show a process or one can show the outcome. There are different reasons to pick either of them.

If the process in itself is very interesting (tying shoes isn’t), and one wants the audience not to miss the details in the production process, the former is a good choice. If one picks the outcome, then the process is subsumed. This one the one hand gives the viewer the opportunity to see the product, to tell him or herself the story of what the process might have been. It, however, also opens up the image for more story lines that one is distracted from when the process is in focus.

For example, would I have picked any of the photographs in which the woman in “the comfy shoes” is in the process of tying her shoes, the prominent story would be “ah, she is tying her comfy shoes, her feet must hurt from the high heels”. Picking the ended process, the present image allows other less prominent story lines to come forward: “ah, shoes (check); where is she looking, probably she is watching other people, or is she thinking, she does look very serious; why is she going home alone, oh, she is looking serious, might have to do with that, etc.”

The story that unfolds in the viewer’s head when action is not too dominant can sometimes make a picture with finished processes even more interesting.

Protagonist, antagonist, relationship – Some photographs come to life from the relationship they portray. This could be an antagonistic relationship, a friendship, or simply a correspondence.

Relationships require at least two subjects. But more than two subjects are also possible, of course. The facial expressions can also add to the storyline. For example, in “See Saw” below, the girl in the air is clearly excited and surprised. The lower girl’s expression shows determination.

In order to enhance the tension between the depicted relation, one can look for contrasts and connects in the picture and also in the subjects that one pics.

The two subjects in “Absence” create a tension through many elements: their backs are facing; one is white, one black, and they are dressed in opposite colours. At the same time they are connected through sitting on the same bench and both being immersed in their literature.

Emotions – Happiness, sadness, boredom, anger, frustration, all these emotions make very interesting subjects of a street photograph and add to the storyline. They can be seen as shortcuts of storytelling as emotions immediately unfold in a story. Furthermore, emotions empathically engage the viewer (much more than nondescript expressions of random shots of pedestrians).

Archetypes, virtues and vices represent some of the most prominent storytelling elements. The last picture illustrates motherhood, for example. In addition, we have the girl’s courage and curiosity. Particularly journalism photography centres around archetypes, virtues, and vices, as they are universally recognisable and have a strong effect on the viewer.

For example, Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” or “Tank Man” on Tiananmen Square in 1989 both portray heroism; however, in totally different ways.

These storytelling elements are merely a few examples. The list of elements is endless. Keeping the storytelling element in mind certainly helps selecting the more interesting photographs from your contact sheet. If keeping storytelling in mind, a street photography project can become the more interesting for both the photographer and the reader.

I believe that in the end, all photography is storytelling. Some stories are boring and some are exciting and engaging. A good storyteller tells the exciting and engaging ones.


About the author: Andrej Zwitter is an amateur photographer based in the Netherlands. He shoots a diverse range of styles, but believes that street photography in particular lays bare the soul of the photographer. To see more of his work on his blog. This article also appeared here.