A Photographer Who Took Great Pictures—and Often Got Better Quotes Than the Reporter

By Jack Limpert

I spent an hour with a photographer yesterday—she was young, cute, a good talker, and reminded me of George Tames, the legendary New York Times photographer.

George wasn’t young and cute when I met him in 1968—by then he was in his 50s and bald—but he had a great smile and a welcoming way with people. When he photographed someone—usually someone important—for the Times, he seemed as interested in getting to know the person as in taking their picture.

Sometime later a reporter for the Times in Washington told me that if you were writing the piece that George was shooting for, you always went back to George to find out what he and the subject had talked about during the photo session. The reporter said George often got more interesting, more intimate quotes than the reporter because the subject felt he or she was just making conversation with George and getting comfortable in the photo session, not being interviewed.

While I was at the Washingtonian, I helped write lots of photo captions and it drove me nuts when photographers were of no help with caption information. You just take pictures? You don’t talk? You don’t listen?

I always thought photo captions were the hidden gems of story layout—lots of readers scan pages looking for something that seems interesting and a good picture—plus a really good caption—can lead lots of readers into a story.

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