Hail and farewell to a picture

By MAURICE HIBBERD, Former DX Night Picture Editor

I arrived in the office, for my night stint on the Picture Desk. I always hoped I would get a briefing on the days events and a breakdown of what to expect as the deadlines got closer. 

On this occasion, much to my surprise, I was told that an “unknown” freelance photographer and been assigned to a story in China. I knew straight away that it would be a problem. The day desk could manage some French, a little German, a bit of Scottish and Chris Djukanovic was quite fluent in Australian.  

It seems the photographs were required for the first edition but since the early morning briefing the photographer had disappeared. My brief was to find him and get the pictures in the Express, giving me less than two hours to complete the task the Day Team had failed to achieve all day.

In those days, before digital pictures, the photographer had to get his film processed, a print made, and then, using a telephone landline, transmit a 10x8 picture which would take about ten minutes, if the landline did not fail.

I did everything possible from my end including alerting the Wire Room to the urgency of the picture and request that I should be informed as soon (if) contact was made. With about eight minutes to deadline the wire room called me and said contact had been made. I warned the Backbench and went to the wire room waiting for the damp print to drop. Everything was going well, even the landline was working without any problems and the picture was in my hands.

It was a picture of a black London taxi. Not only was it a photograph of a black cab it was a black cab that the photographer had cut the wheels off and it was certainly not the picture requested on the original assignment ordered by the Day Desk.

We had missed the deadline so when I was able to talk to the photographer I taught him a few “new” English sentences. It appears that despite the briefing he thought a picture of the only London black taxi in Hong Kong was a better story than the one he had been asked to cover.

I never did find out what he should have been photographing but if anyone would like a picture of a cab, minus wheels they might find it in a picture library somewhere!


Will this do? - Ed


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