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|| News Item: Posted 2002-05-02

Trophy Kissing Picture Hard To Swallow
By Grover Sanschagrin

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP
OK. I need to stop for a moment and make a few comments about the trophy-kissing picture shot by the AP's Rich Pedroncelli at a recent LPGA Golf Tournament. Frankly, I am surprised that this picture was even put on the wire. I am even more surprised that this picture is currently (as of this writing) the most popular picture on Yahoo!.

Fact is, I am confused. Although I've been out of the shooting business now for a while, the training and experience I gained in college and at the various newspapers I've worked remains with me. I've been part of the common media gang-bangs that are ripe for creating these kinds of images, and they were part of the reason I left the newspaper biz years ago. Frustrated. Unsatisfied. Feeling the need for release - I turned to the Internet.

Yes, my friends are divided into two categories - "photo friends" and "normal people." But never before have I been sent, via email, a photo from both types of friends, on the same day, over and over and over and over. I wished I could just hit a "fast-forward" button so I could hurry up and get to the explosive climax.

Yes, email is great, but if this image were mine, I don't think I would be adding it to my portfolio right away, in spite of how popular it appears to be. It just seems to be a little stiff, and leaves me wanting more.

Although I appreciate hearing from my friends (both kinds of them), I am a little confused on how to respond to them with regard to this image. I can only assume they are looking for some kind of explicit reaction from me. (Or perhaps, they are trying to tease me?)

To be honest, I can't help but feel that I am missing something really obvious here. Why is this image being thrust hard and fast into the spotlight?

Sure, the photographer could have used a bit more flash-fill to illuminate her face. (But least he didn't yell at her like a paparazzi... "Hey baby, baby! Look at the camera when you kiss that!") Those damn hats always cast a shadow and flash fill is almost a requirement these days. But my non-photo friends don't even understand the concept of flash-fill, so I don't think that's why they sent it to me.

Some could argue that this image was shot too loose. We all know that "tighter is better" in most circumstances, and it is my personal opinion that this image, if tighter, could be much more effective. But since when did my friends get so passionate about the cropping of someone else's picture? So I don't think this is why they sent it either.

Maybe I should skip being so damn critical. I mean, this image doesn't totally suck, but it does leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Just because I think these kinds of trophy kissing pictures are common, and very often staged, even the most hard-core photographers make these images. We've all shot them, so I guess I am a little confused as to why this particular one is getting everyone so hot.

So I took matters into my own hands and did some probing investigative research. I asked my roommate, Jack Gruber, someone who, since college has been known to blow his photographic wad none-too-soon, to give me his best trophy-kissing picture so I could compare the two. He showed me his image of Retief Goosen kissing the U.S. Open Championship trophy at the 101st U.S. Open in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Photo by Jack Gruber/USA Today

Photo by Jack Gruber/USA Today
Quite frankly, I think Gruber's photo is a stronger image. The background is simpler and the winner's face is more visible than the image by Pedroncelli. Sure, both images are ceremonial images where the athlete is obviously performing for the camera, but neither of these images is really worthy of a repeated insertion into my email box.

Why on Earth is this image so popular? What could it be? Are trophy-kissing pictures the new "tilted horizon" of 2002 - the hot new thing to be shooting? What's next? Watching trophy-kissers frame-by-frame in video stop-action? High speed, rear sync, motion blurred trophy smooching? And will this trend spread wide-open? Beyond trophies - into ribbon cuttings, check passings and the like?

I don't want to seem too critical here. We've all been in this situation before, and Pedroncelli did what he was supposed to - shoot shoot shoot until you're totally spent. Then let the editors decide what they want to use later. It's all part of the job we are paid to do.

I would rather they sent me an image where I can see the winner's reaction (facial) after dropping his ball into the hole by skillfully using his driver from 300-yards away - making his opponents wish they had pulled out sooner. Now that's my definition of a money shot!

(Grover Sanschagrin is a former photojournalist now working on various top-secret Internet ventures. Contrary to popular opinion, as "Director of Product Development" for Quokka Sports, he was not totally responsible for the company going out of business, and is in no way linked to Enron. His web site:

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