Behind-the-Camera of Photojournalist Nic Coury in Monterey County, California.

November 11, 2011

Conviction and Photojournalism

Photographs of the five, young Marina residents that perished on November 5.

This week was a bad one for local, breaking news.

I got a message from my editor on Monday morning asking me to go photograph the home of a fire two days before where five, mentally-retarded residents died. There was a press conference later that day and I took a picture of the mother of one of the victims. The Associated Press was there and the story was national news.

Last night, there was a memorial at a local church where a few hundred family, friends and the local firefighters and police officers attended. It was a really hard scene to take pictures. There were four television cameras and three of us news photographers there.

I shot the below photo of Connie Cruz whose daughter Monica was one of the five. After the service was over, Ms. Cruz walked to the altar, grabbed the photo of her late-daughter and started sobbing loudly. It was really had to take this picture, but as my good friend and colleague Conner Jay from the Salinas Californian said this morning as we were discussing shooting the similar photos we took, "You have to have conviction when snapping the shutter or it's in vain. You have to believe that your photos are important."

It is really hard being a news photographer sometimes. Being asked to photograph a grieving parent who tragically lost their child is very hard, but you have to put your emotions to the side and just shoot. It is necessary to make hard news photos, but it never gets easier.

It feels very predatory sometimes and I can't imagine what it feels like, but it's part of the job to document the bad as well as the good. As Marina mayor Bruce Delgado mentioned during the memorial, "These five, young people brought hundreds of people together locally and people all over the country paused for a moment when they heard the news. Who else can do that? They brought a community together."

As I was photographing people near the altar after the service, one gentleman who was a family member of one of the victims turns to me and says, "You would have wanted to know him (nodding at his photo). He was always smiling and enjoyed everyone."

A reporter and I at the Weekly was discussing it after work tonight. It's just part of the gig.

Marina mayor Bruce Delgado tears up while sitting with local pastors during the memorial.

The house on Monday morning.

A memorial to the five victims across from the house.

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