Even if you use only the simplest of inexpensive cameras and consider yourself the least talented of amateur photographers, it's possible that you may one day take an award-winning picture that will appear in newspapers around the world.
It has happened a number of times. It's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and having the courage to take the picture and the sense to take the unprocessed film to the nearest newspaper or wire service.A few cases in point:
On a warm May day in 1953, Walter and Virginia Schau were on a fishing excursion near Redding, Calif. A tractor-trailer hauling fruit and vegetables to Oregon was ahead of the Schaus' car on a winding road approaching the Pit River Bridge.
As the large diesel rig started over the bridge, its driver suddenly felt the steering mechanism snap. The tractor-trailer veered crazily from side to side before it smashed through the steel railing of the bridge.
The Schaus stopped their car and rushed to the edge of the bridge. They saw the truck cab, with its driver and assistant trapped inside, dangling off the edge, 40 feet above the river. The trailer remained on the bridge; the cab's rear wheels had become jammed under the trailer, holding the cab in precarious balance.
Other motorists stopped, and as they and Walter began lowering a rope to the trapped truckers, Virginia raced back to the car to retrieve her Kodak Brownie camera. Two shots remained on the film. She ran to a point near the bridge and took two pictures of the miraculous rescue.
One of the pictures was picked up by the Associated Press and transmitted to newspapers around the world. It won Virginia Schau the 1954 Pulitzer Prize.
Then there's Arnold Hardy, a Georgia Tech student and amateur photographer. In the cold morning hours of Dec. 7, 1946, he heard an emergency alarm and hailed a cab that rushed him to the Winecoff, a huge 33-year-old Atlanta hotel. Panic-stricken faces peered from the hotel's windows as flames roared through the 15-story building. Many of the hotel's 285 guests, unable to reach fire department ladders, had jumped.
Though appalled and transfixed by the tragedy, Hardy managed to sight his camera on a desperate woman as she slipped from a rescue rope tied to a ladder. Again, the AP picked up the picture, and that stark image of the woman's plunge horrified readers worldwide. Hardy was awarded the 1947 Pulitzer Prize.
More recently, on May 13, 1981, the world was shocked when Pope John Paul II was shot during his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square. An amateur photographer, standing only a few feet from the pope, took a picture of him greeting the crowds from his Popemobile. In the photograph, at the extreme left, a handgun rises ominously. Seconds after the picture was taken, shots sounded and the pope fell, severely wounded.
Immediately after the shooting, another amateur photographer attending the papal audience took snapshots showing a man running and carrying what appeared to be a gun.
Those amateur photos were published worldwide and were studied for clues by the police.
Amateur photographers have taken billions of snapshots. There are few places around the world today where a snapshot camera can't be found. In many instances, an amateur's snapshot of a tragic or unusual event, or bizarre situation, has appeared on front pages around the world. In such cases, a professional photojournalist either wasn't there or was unable to record the event.
It may just happen to you someday, so keep your camera handy and loaded with film!