As the country was busy choosing a President last week, photographers scrambled to meet the deadlines of the New York Times...including the newspaper and its web site and galleries. The man holding the visual baton was photo editor Cornelius Schmid...a seven year veteran at the Times. He shares some of his favorite images with us as well as his thoughts on the photographic electoral process.
Jim Colton: How long ago did the election coverage/planning begin?
Cornelius Schmid: Planning for Election Day began in earnest in late January (I'm sure the wires and other organizations started even before then). It's been a tough year, with a lot of big news events and breaking news to keep things interesting, photographers' availability has been a constant concern.
JC: How many photographers were assigned to the campaign and how many on election night?
CS: We've had photographers with each presidential and vice presidential candidate since the conventions. Depending on the frequency of the candidate's travel we've kept photographers out for 2 weeks at a time, so that no one gets over drawn. On election night, the number increased so that we could use the different positions available at the candidates' events and have photographers around the country getting reaction.
JC: How has the advent of digital technology helped/hurt the editing and publishing process?
CS: In a way, Election Day in 2008 our digital presence was similar to the paper. It was a curated, long format, experience with a slideshow here and there with most of the attention paid to the home page. In 2012 photos were heading out the door in many different packages; with articles, blog posts, live dashboards, through social media, in video packages and of course slideshows.
The desire is a great thing. There are so many opportunities to have different perspectives and projects seen and it proves what a visual medium the web is.
The flip side is that producing at such high volume can lead to fatigue on everyone's part, but the high standards that the photographers hold themselves to makes the act of editing the same as any other day. The opportunity for a great goofball moment to light up Facebook doesn’t change the production of iconic images with lasting power.
JC: What specifically makes a great news picture for you?
CS: So much of campaign photography is taking advantage of situations that the campaign machines set forth. The big rallies at dusk, the blasts of confetti, babies galore (this year, speaking in the rain was strangely popular), some great visual fodder is readily available, but doesn’t contribute much. To me the wonder of what photographers like Doug Mills, Stephen Crowley, Damon Winter, Richard Perry, Josh Haner and Eric Thayer have done time and time again is to play off or with the stage dressing and catch the emotional roots of these events.
JC: What advice can you give to photographers who would like to eventually work for the New York Times?
CS: Instagram, twitpic, flickr, Facebook among many many others have proven how vital image making is in contemporary story telling. Galleries of reader generated photos are the norm. Memes are sprouting up like mushrooms. There are a lot of pictures out their competing for air. Photographers should be considering their roll and voice as story tellers in their pictures. Whether it’s a single frame or a series, a viewer should know why they're looking at a professional photographer's work and what sets it apart.