A shot that fell into place

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May 06, 2007|By Jed Kirschbaum | Jed Kirschbaum,Sun Photographer

When I set out to cover the recent departure of the Headquarters Company of the 58th Infantry Brigade for eventual deployment to Iraq, I knew what to expect from earlier assignments. There would be soldiers, proud parents, proud spouses, children too young to understand and a smattering of politicians honoring the troops.

One variable photographers worry about is just how much access we'll be given to document such events. I entered the Pikesville armory wondering how warm the greeting would be. A sergeant soon set my mind at ease telling me to do what I wanted (within reason) and let him know if he could help. I waded in, first watching the ceremony and then covering the farewells.

Photographers often use the camera as a kind of shield, distancing ourselves from emotion-filled scenes just steps away. Experience has taught us that being somewhat detached enables us to function better on assignment. But all of us have suffered through goodbyes and I felt the tug of those feelings.

Family members at the ceremony were a mix of every size, shape, age and race. The farewells were heart wrenching: a young boy with his puppy saying goodbye to his dad, a mother combing her young daughter's hair, an elderly woman having trouble walking. (She could use her son or daughter's support as much as the military, I thought.) Within the whirl, I felt frustration and fear news photographers often experience. Which way should I look? Is the most telling image in the other direction?

It was in just such a distracted manner that, out of the corner of my eye, I saw 4-year-old Hunter McColligan being raised tenderly by Staff Sgt. Daryl Cheatham.

There are moments when things fall into place. The crowd partially blocking my view seemed to part, distractions around the sergeant and his godson fell away. Baseball players speak about getting into the "zone." Photographers sometimes experience it, too. The room noise becomes distant, the room empties.

The only thing is the dance of light in the camera's window. I focus, shoot and think of the safety of those going into harm's way, and those left behind.

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