making these photographs was created by that process: how, in a very limited amount of time, to make photographs that illustrated newspaper stories and would be accepted by editors who wanted immediately understandable pictures whose impact would entice people to read the text. I learned, like every competent newspaper photojournalist, to solve the problem by choosing from a repertoire of standard types of pictures that used a limited number of visual components and compositional devices. Making any particular picture was only a matter of adapting the standard format to the specifics of that situation and trying to get an original twist on the standard image.

Standard ways of composing a photograph (organizing its graphic elements in the frame) enhanced its impact. I learned to use a telephoto lens to isolate the subject by making the background out of focus. (The term we used was to make the subject “pop.”) I learned to use a wide-angle lens to place the subject in extreme foreground, so that it appeared much larger than elements in the background. These techniques contributed to making photographs whose message was readily apparent. Standard images illustrated the equally standardized stories I was called on to photograph. When an editor asks for a sports photograph that “says losing,” experienced photographers know what kinds of gestures and compositions “say” losing and where these combinations are likely to occur at a sporting event. The categories of winning and losing and the analysis (that this is the most significant theme) have already been determined. The language, the form, the ideas are already set and are applied to all situations.

Consider the hug. A picture of two people hugging is generally useful as a sign of emotion, an ideogram for sorrow or happiness, depending on the context. When you are assigned to a funeral, for example, you know that everyone back at the paper will be pleased if you make a photograph of people hugging at the side of the coffin. If you