Witnessing History

obamaphotoI got to witness history this week, but I had a lousy view.

Like many things in life, sometimes you do the sure thing, and sometimes you take a gamble. On Tuesday night, I had planned to do the sure thing: cover the rally in Grant Park and try to find a unique angle on it to let the audience experience the historic evening on their computer screens.

But then there came the slim possibility of an exclusive moment that I could capture on tape. We decided to gamble.

And the gamble meant I had to stay in my hotel room for several hours, ready to move at a moment’s notice to set up at a location nearby. I paced while we waited for a yea or nay from the campaign, watching the crowd gather on CNN, even though it was only a few hundred meters away.

We waited for hours. The greenlight never came.

I lost the bet.

I had planned to spend the hours that day and evening prepping and shooting at the rally site. I wanted to capture the sunset, the arrival of thousands of people lined up to join the rally, the anticipation among supporters — Would he win or lose? Would it be a nail-biter or a blowout? — and see the arc of the evening play out to the climax with either a victory or concession speech on the grand, flag-festooned podium on a baseball field in Grant Park’s south end.

But by the time I managed to get to the rally — on a trolley crowded with screaming Obama staffers — then through the “mag” at security, my options were slim. Media were cut off from supporters by a fence. For those in the press who hadn’t paid for a space on the risers, the best spots to see the speech podium were crowded with tripods, ladders and the sharp elbows of everyone who had arrived long before I did.

And then John McCain gave his concession speech. Obama soon followed. The roar of the crowd was deafening.

I did the best I could. I focused on the crowd, and extended my mono-pod (a pole to put my camera on), and waved it over the throngs as flags waved around them. I could see the speech on the jumbotron.

Luckily, Steven Gray and Silas Tyler were out with the crowds, talking with Obama supporters and Chicagoans who had come to witness what, win or lose, would be a historic event.

We combined our footage in this video segment for TIME.com.

Half My Life Ago, a Murder.

When I was 22 years-old, I was a pall bearer.

On New Year’s Eve Day in 1985, seven other young men and I lifted the casket that carried our nineteen year-old friend Gina to and from the hearse and then on to the site of her grave in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Gina Tenney was the gentlest of souls. Bright red hair. A smile that even now, remembering it more than two decades later, melts my heart.

Two days before the funeral, Gina had been found by a trapper checking his traps in the freezing waters of the Mahoning River in Youngstown. She had been raped and strangled.

We knew then that the man who lived, at least sometimes, downstairs from Gina — a man named Bennie Adams — was found to have some of her things when they searched his place. As I recall, among them was Gina’s ATM card and her car keys. We also knew he had been bothering her in the weeks leading up to the murder, and Gina changed her phone number to stop the harassing calls he had been making. My friends and I — including Mark, who had been her boyfriend — were pretty certain Adams was the one who had killed her.

But the prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to make a murder charge stick. Adams was charged only with possession of stolen property and never went to trial. The grand jury did not even indict him on the stolen goods charge.

But the week before last, Adams was convicted of Gina’s murder and sentenced to die by lethal injection next spring.

Continue reading “Half My Life Ago, a Murder.”

TIME Video on Election Day


I’m in Chicago, covering the rally and big speech by Obama (still not determined whether it will be a victory speech or a pep rally for disappointed Democrats) tonight in the city’s front yard: Grant Park.

On TIME.com/video, we’ve had several videos coming in, including post-poll interviews with voters in Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. I did a piece about Youngstown yesterday. Richard Corliss listed his favorite political movies. And the work of the two photographers on the campaigns (Christopher Morris with McCain and Callie Shell with Obama) is featured in “final days on the trail” videos.

Check them all out.

Making Ends Meet in Rural Ohio

On TIME.com/video this week.

At a small town auction and in the local cafe in Kinsman township (about ten miles from where I grew up), rural Ohioans worry about the economy and ponder their choice for president.

When I was a kid, I went to the Kinsman auctions with my grandparents. When I started thinking of a way to show the economy of my rural roots, I immediately thought of the auctions — run by a rural restaurateur named Virgil — in the old theater building in Kinsman. It was Saturday night entertainment, and Grandma would always buy me a fifty cent grab bag – a paper sack full of small toys and candy.

The old theater is gone, but I discovered there was another auction happening in a building a couple of miles north of the township square. Dan and Joe Autrey run the operation now, and we were there for the big Halloween sale. Mom came with me when I shot and reported this story.

What we discovered when we got there was that the building where the auction is held was a former dance hall, and it’s where my parents first met.