Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Prizewinning Photo That Never Was

I can relate to this image.

Many years ago I was sailing with a friend at Zeekoeivlei in Cape Town. A guy was doing acrobatics in a crop-spraying aircraft above us and I had my camera with me.

Suddenly, as we watched, the aircraft nose-dived into the ground behind some trees a short distance away. We sailed across the lake and started running towards the accident.

On the way there a woman in a car stopped us, she was crying. “Please don’t go there” she implored, “I’ve just lost a dear friend”.

“We’re from the Press” I lied and continued running.

At the scene, the aircraft was in flames, the pilot roasted. A rowdy, drunken crowd had gathered, celebrating his death by clapping, cheering and throwing stones at the wreckage.

One guy had a guitar and was strumming and singing loudly as he made his way through the crowd.

I took some photos of the unruly revelers. ‘This’ll be a big news story’, I thought.

Later, we rushed into town to one of the local newspapers and I told them the story. I gave my film to one of the reporters who took it into the darkroom to develop.

After awhile he returned and looked at me in a strange way. “There’s nothing here” he said, handing me the developed film.

I couldn’t believe it and checked, the last frame was totally black. Then I saw what had happened - the sprockets which move the film forward had stripped the holes in the film and I’d been taking photos on one frame only …


Karma’s a Bitch …



  1. my major ..which i never completed incidentally was in photography..tell me about it,I am still beating my head over that mistake..:(

    Your postings are very inspired :) you just keep banging them out...where as I..:( ..have nothing substantial to say these days,.. painting instead..:)

  2. what an awful crowd no respect for the dead?

  3. Thanks Monica ... yeah, I'm posting as much as I can while I'm able ... next week I'll be off line again for awhile ...

    ... Lol ... if you have nothing to say, don't say it and anyway 'a picture paints a thousand words' ... hey?

    Yeah lisleman, that whole scene was pretty surreal and stomach-churning ... but I was not without guilt either ...

  4. Your post reminds me of the hundreds of photos I took in SE Asia with the timer inadvertantly set. All I got was blur.
    I'm visiting from Lynda's FFF blog. Your blog is great fun!

  5. Thanks for your visit and comment Dedene - I appreciate it ...

    Hehehe I've also had the timer set at times and, at first, it took me quite a while and a lot of head-scratching to figure out what the problem was ...

  6. I use a simple digital camera that don't work if the lens isn't fully open, saves cockups like this.

    The "bad behaviour" of the onlookers frequently happens at times of great impersonal tragedy, a way of coping?

  7. These sort of things happen to us all when least needed. Obviously it was meant to be! Infuriating never the less.

  8. Thanks for the comments Dave and Diane ...

    I don't know how to explain the behavior of the crowd ...

    Perhaps I'm wrong but, to me, drunkenness is NEVER an excuse for anything.

  9. Wow quite an experience. I mean being on the water and witnessing the incident, meeting the person who was affected by the loss, seeing flames and the dead pilot and the crowd, rushing to the newspaper office and finding the film ruined.

    I don't know what to say. Other than I believe there are more stories in your closet.

  10. hehe Fazlisa - stories or skeletons in my closet?

    Yes, it was a strange experience and the site of the accident was like a scene from the movie 'Apocalypse Now'