Make every picture count

…because you never know which one will end up getting published all over the place.

In a previous post, I talked about how any picture can end up spreading like wildfire, especially on the web. Shortly before the post, I shot an image for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that went viral on sporting websites.

cubs suck

Wednesday January 28, 2009 After an overnight snowfall in St. Louis, someone stomped out the words "Cubs Suck" in Ballpark Village, as seen from a view from the 19th floor of the Hilton St. Louis at the Ball Park. ©2009 Max Gersh | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Although my thoughts on the matter at the time were a bit more juvenile, it is still interesting to see where your pictures end up.

In Feb., I shot a picture that I thought nothing of at the time. My editor emailed me an assignment to meet a man at his private auto museum in Roscoe, Ill.,  to photograph Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone. Huh?

That’s exactly what I was thinking. What on earth is he talking about? Where is there a private auto museum in Roscoe? Why does this guy own Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone? What’s a tombstone doing in an auto museum? Why am I photographing it?

This is one of those assignments I assumed I’d figure out once I got there.

As I pulled up the the museum, Historic Auto Attraction, I gave the owner, Wayne Lensing, a call. The museum was closed that day so I ended up getting a private tour.

Lensing walked me through the different rooms, showing me cars (and many other random things) that he had collected over the years. It was pretty neat.

While we were walking, he filled me in on the deal with Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone. It was sold to him by its supposed owner. Now the family that had owned the stone for generations is saying that the seller had no right to sell it and is trying to get it back. Lensing is standing behind his purchase which goes nicely with his massive JFK collection.

When we got to the Oswald Room at the museum, I noticed the tombstone was in a flat, glass-top display case up against a wall. After a little maneuvering of the display and patience on Lensing’s part, I finally got a portrait that showed not only the stone but also the room that housed the Texas relic.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Wayne Lensing stands next to Lee Harvey Oswald's tombstone in the Oswald Room Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, at Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe. Lensing has owned the stone for about one-and-a-half years. In the background is the ambulance that picked up Oswald after he was shot by Jack Ruby in Dallas, Texas. ©2012

I put it in our system like any other image. It ran in our paper and then I forgot about it. Since the story was so bizarre, my boss sent the image off to the Associated Press.

Not long ago, a coworker saw a link to a followup story on the New York Times website featuring my image. I was pretty excited since this was the first time that I know of that the New York Times used one of my images.

That brought the portrait back into my mind. I wondered where else it had been published. From a quick and simple Google search of “Max Gersh and Wayne Lensing,” I found usage on a handful of sites including The Jacksonville (Ill.) Journal Courier, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and The Washington Post.

I went into the assignment not knowing what to expect. A few months later, this photo tied to what is arguably one of the stranger stories I’ve ever worked on, has been published in some of the largest papers in the country. Good thing I spent a little extra time to get the best image I could.

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