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Panpa Bulletin : March 2012
Katrina Bridgeford uses a Nikon D3s PHotoGrAPHEr ProfilE KATRINA Bridgeford is a purist. Digital manipulation bores her. She declares she’d rather snap pictures than mess around on Pho- toshop. When one of her photographs sparked global claims of fakery, the 46-year-old staff photographer on the Northern Territory News was shocked. “The funny thing was, I wasn’t even working that day,” she recalls. She and her partner had taken her two sons to see the crocodiles at Fog Dam – a Northern Territory equiva- lent of whale-watching. “I got on the boat with my $150 instamatic, with my two boys Jordan and Dylan. And Jordan says ‘come on, Mum, can you get a decent photo?’And I said: ‘I’m trying, I’m trying!’ “So I went right down the back of the boat, leaned over and snapped Brutus. I sat down and I’m flicking through and I thought – that’s not a bad photo. “I showed my youngest son Dylan, and he said ‘holy crap, Mum, that’s a corker!’ “So I took it back to work and my editor said to put it straight in the system. And that’s when it all went haywire.” The NT News faithful are so accus- tomed to seeing the toothy reptiles gracing the paper’s front page that when US President Barack Obama visited Darwin, editor Matt Cunning- ham called it the “biggest non-croc- related story of the year”. But non-Territorians had trouble believing what they were seeing. “People just did not believe this photograph was real,” says Katrina. “We had letters to the editor, we had phone calls for 10 days – it went viral. “I had people from London, Japan, New York – I was interviewed by a New York radio station, saying ‘is it real?’ And I said, ‘bloody oath it’s real!’ We had forensic scientists try- ing to work out if it had been Pho- toshopped. “I got a bit cranky. “Someone asked, ‘what do you think about all the controversy that’s going on?’ and I said, ‘Those bloody rubber-necked southerners can blow it out their arse!’” She had not expected the quote to make it into print. Wrong. But she was right about Brutus and she was ultimately vindicated when other passengers from her Fog Dam trip came forward to verify the pho- tograph. Katrina says such unique photo- graphic potential brought her back to Darwin and the NT News after six years in Sydney. Aged 21, she’d landed a cadetship at the News Limited, where she spent the next decade. In the early 90s, she travelled to Asia to cover fashion shows in the Philippines and Singapore, before tackling sex tourism in Thailand and the political underbelly of Russia. Then in 1994 she took a job in commercial photography and recalls: “I couldn’t adjust. I missed the every- day adrenaline rush of doing things on the spur of the moment. “It was basically a point-and-shoot thing.” She returned to news photography at the Sydney suburban paper chain NewsLocal, formerly Cumberland Courier Newspapers. Yet Territory life continued to beckon. “Working for the NT News gives you opportunities that you wouldn’t get places like Sydney – the unique wilderness, the remote settlements, the lifestyle. “You go to work thinking, ‘what’s work going to be like today, because it won’t be like yesterday’. “One weekend my editor told me, ‘you have to drive to Daly Waters (two and a half hours drive away), to take a photo of a pygmy hippopota- mus that’s been accidentally shot’. “I thought – he’s geeing me up here. Pygmy hippopotamus . . . what’s he on about?” Sure enough, a hunter had acci- dentally shot a pygmy hippopotamus which had escaped from a zoo 15 years ago. “It had been wandering around the bush for all that time, and he thought it was a feral pig. “That’s just one example of the unique opportunities here.” Flying is a relatively common transport for the newsroom because of the size of the Territory. “We fly out in what I call tumble- dryers,” she laughs. “They are either a single- or a double-engine charter. In the Darwin heat, it’s turbulent, uncomfortable and very hot. “Photographing the indigenous children is amazing. It’s so reward- ing when you get back and see the expressions on their faces that you’ve captured. “When I’m taking the photos, they’re all basically sitting on top of me and I show them on the screen. “They just love the camera. Lots of tongues and peace signs and jumping in the air, cartwheels and backflips.” In other words, she says, it’s worth the ride. see more photos and listen to the interview with Katrina Bridgeford by scanning the code with your mobile What a croc! When photographer Katrina Bridgeford snapped monster croc Brutus, she found herself battling claims from around the globe that the picture was a fake. She talks to SoPHiE tArr 1. snap happy . . . readers from as far away as Japan, Britain and american wanted to know if Katrina Bridgeford’s shot was genuine; 2. ‘Just photographing the indigenous children . . . it’s amazing’, says Katrina Bridgeford; 3. profile shots are very much part of the job . . . helicopter pilot stephen Groves received a bravery medal for his efforts during Cyclone Yasi in northern australia last year 1. 2. 3. We had letters to the “ editor, we had phone calls for 10 days – it went viral” www.panpa.org.au 16 | MARCH 2012 | The PANPA Bulletin