Ken BeSaw saw a need and filled it.
At a rally he attended while visiting Chicago, BeSaw saw that the Illinois bureau of the People’s Weekly World had only a point-and-shoot camera, and decided that his favorite paper, and its readers, deserve better.
He saved up and bought the paper a Nikon digital single-lens reflex camera.
For those of us who have no idea what this means, BeSaw explained the difference. “You actually look through the lens that is taking the photo. You see actually what is in focus, what is out of focus. It gives you a much better rendition of what the final picture will look like. With a point-and-shoot, you’re looking through a window that is above the camera lens.”
Just how much does such a camera cost?
“Let me put it this way,” BeSaw said. “It was one month’s Social Security. When I realized that the Chicago office needed a better camera, I started putting aside money on a monthly basis.”
The paper’s Chicago staff was happy to receive the camera. The photo on the front page of the June 23 edition, which shows Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) speaking at a rally in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, was taken with the donated camera.
“I studied photography in college,” BeSaw said, “and one thing we learned is that the photograph on the front page of a paper makes a lasting impression. It can determine whether a person sometimes even reads an article, or how well they retain an article. It’s the first thing a person sees.”
BeSaw says he’s seen a marked improvement in the quality of the PWW’s photographs over the past few years. “We have some excellent photographers. Our readers are starting to take an active role,” he said, urging more readers to send in more of their own photographs.
The local PWW Bureaus across the country can use new, or good used, digital cameras, BeSaw said, suggesting that readers help out in that regard.
“What Ken has been doing is educating all of us on the importance of photojournalism,” said PWW editor Teresa Albano. “‘Make the pictures bigger,’ he tells us. ‘Get more sports photos in,’ he urges. He’s right. A photo has an emotional impact. And now with this generous donation Ken’s given us a better tool to do that.”
BeSaw attended college on a vocational education grant, but had to drop out when the grant was taken away. BeSaw, who has suffered from epilepsy, said, “They cancelled the grant, saying it would be impossible for me to get a job in photography, even though I was an A and B student.”
BeSaw is an excellent photographer with astute political framing skills for his subjects. He has drafted a short handbook on taking photos for the People’s Weekly World. E-mailfor a copy.
If you would like to make a donation of a digital camera, please call Teresa Albano at (773) 446-9920, ext. 201, or e-mail talbano @pww.org.