Making a great picture takes a lot of work, especially when it’s a sensitive subject being photographed.
Denny Simmons, photographer for the Evansville Courier & Press and winner of a Best of Scripps 2012 award for a picture of a Marine’s funeral (left), knows the difficulties of covering funerals and coming away with pictures that capture the emotions.
“The fallen Marine, Lance Cpl. Alec Terwiske, was from a small town on the edge of our coverage area,” said Simmons. “The word came down that I was going to be photographing the arrival of his remains at a small airport in Huntingburg, Ind., and it was too late in the evening to make any contact with the family.”
Those handling the arrangements sent out a press release saying the media would be able to photograph from a certain location at the airport.
“I will say I was lucky to have brought an extra-long piece of glass (600 mm lens) because the spot they asked us to stay was about 100 yards away,” said Simmons. “Add to that the plane's engine and wings blocked much of his arrival, and the heat waves coming up from the tarmac made everything from the knees down look distorted. I considered myself lucky to have been able to make a picture that conveyed the feelings of the moment.”
“Making a picture like this is difficult to say the least. Not because of the technical or environmental challenges, but just releasing the shutter during such an intimate – and some might (and did) say "private" moment – is tough. But, as my editors and teachers over the years have always told me, it is important to make these pictures. Losing a son or daughter to war is a tragedy. It happens a lot these days. It is in making pictures like these that I hope people are able to feel or empathize with another person's loss. And hopefully not take their sacrifices for granted.”