The front page of the main section was always covered with wire photos, pictures taken from around the world by the Associated Press or United Press International. Even if the main local story was the real estate property tax increase, there was a national or international story with a a photo for the front page.
But the second section front page was only local news. It HAD to have a picture to attract readers into reading the stories. Often the photo editor didn't find out till 2 p.m.'s news meeting what stories were going to run in the next day's paper. The make-up editor wanted to know what photos were available to go with the stories. But maybe there were no photos!
This is when the photo editor rushed back and everyone in the photo department had to get out and find a photo and make the 7 p.m. deadline, That was the deadline for prepress, all articles and and photos finished. To layout the page the editor needed to know whether it was a horizontal or vertical photo ASAP. To play it safe many make-up editors would start laying out the page, which story on top, how many stories on the page and just putting a large square box in the center for the "weather art."
The newspaper was depending on the staff to find a local photo and make the deadline.
There are stories of photographers at the Topeka Capital Journal coming from different directions and ending up at the same playground. At the Philadelphia Inquirer there was a story of one photographer who simply had a stuffed squirrel in his trunk and then simply stuck it somewhere to reflect on the season or the weather. Story goes that he was trying to show how cold it was and put his squirrel on the edge of a metal drum that workers used to burn trash and get warm. Well the drum was hot and fell into the flames, the whole staff mourned.
|Tourist in Colorado, by J.G.Domke|
Instead of weather art, they could just be interesting, funny signs, or people working. Akira Suwa found that his best "weather art" were found when he wasn't working, the best way to find something was to run an errand. He was interested to stereo music and some of his best photos were found as he drove to the stereo store to look at a new speaker or turntable.
Today Instagram has become the "weather art." and old newspaper photographers like Ira Block have thousands of people who follow the photos he posts. Having worked for several newspapers he moved on to traveling the world doing a variety of stories for National Geographic where you have to find "weather art" everyday. His Instagram site, irablockphoto, has 251,000 followers!
The great thing is that you can capture things 24/7 that you find interesting with your smartphone, some of Block's images may be taken with his iPhone, but many are taken with his professional camera. But all shared on Instagram. Chronicling the day, weather art.
Following the tradition I still take weather art on Instagram too. Check out JimDomke.