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Eric Shackle Writes: Pictorial Journalism Aint What It Used To Be!

"Way back in 1937, when I was a teenage cadet/cub reporter on The Press in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was sometimes called on to hold a metal tray of flash powder high in the air for the newspaper's sole photographer. That was my introduction to pictorial journalism,'' writes veteran journalist Eric Shackle.

Twenty years later and 1200 miles to the west, I was for a brief period pictorial editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. I had to assign news jobs to six or seven photographers, select their best pictures, draft a page or pages, and write the captions.

Cameras in those days were cumbersome Speed Graphics, many times larger than today's dinky digital devices. The photographer adjusted the focus and took a single snap shot. Exactly when to take it required great skill and experience. Today anyone can point a camera in the right direction, and fire off a dozen shots in less than a second.

Those Telegraph cameramen were some of the best - perhaps THE best - in Australia. One of them, Ern McQuillan, now in his eighties, is still taking great pictures as a commercial photographer. In 1998 he was awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for his services to journalism, particularly in the field of media photography.

Simon Elliott, former Deputy Director, National Portrait Gallery, interviews Ern McQuillan.


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