May 30 – Crane Collapse in New York City

June 13, 2008 | By Anthony Behar | News, Photography, Photojournalism

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NEW YORK – MAY 30: New York City Fire Department firefighters work on the scene of a crane collapse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 91st Street and 1st Avenue May 30, 2008 in New York. The crane collapsed on top of an apartment building crashing into a penthouse apartment and falling to the ground. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Getty Images)

My name is Anthony Behar, and I am a celebrity retoucher for Contour by Getty Images photo syndication brand. The one thing that bonds all of us together at work is the love of photography. Working at Getty Images has brought me into contact with amazing people and amazing photographers, a passion that is shared by many of my coworkers.

The post below is about my experience of finding myself in a situation that required quick thinking, quick action and taking the steps to bring newsworthy event to press, I’d like to share this with anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation.

You might have heard that on Friday, May 30, 2008 there was a terrible construction accident on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where sadly two construction workers lost their lives when a crane collapsed onto the streets.

As a photographer in my own right (www.anthonybehar.com), when I heard the news that a crane had fallen over just a few blocks from my house, and I quickly grabbed my camera and ran to the scene of the accident.

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NEW YORK – MAY 30: New York City Fire Department firefighters work on the scene of a crane collapse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 91st Street and 1st Avenue May 30, 2008 in New York. The crane collapsed on top of an apartment building crashing into a penthouse apartment and falling to the ground. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Getty Images)

Finding chaos in the street, I knew from past experience that I had to get up high for the first shot. I looked all around me and saw a few people looking down from their fire escapes. I yelled out to to one person politely asked if he would let me into the building, I kept yelling “press…press…press” as the noise from all the rescue workers arriving grew louder and louder. He paused and then poked his head back into his apartment, two seconds later he buzzed me in.

I bolted up three flights of stairs, went out onto his fire escape and shot off a few frames. I then quickly left his apartment and ran up to the roof where several other tenants had gathered, and I continued shooting.

I spent maybe another five minutes on the roof top, shooting the entire block, from left to right and then decided to leave to the building. When I got to the street the police had already set up barriers and I found myself on a deserted sidewalk with people corralled to the left and the right of me. I was essentially alone except for the police officers running back and forth, and one guy running towards me.

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NEW YORK – MAY 30: New York City Fire Department firefighters work on the scene of a crane collapse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 91st Street and 1st Avenue May 30, 2008 in New York. The crane collapsed on top of an apartment building crashing into a penthouse apartment and falling to the ground. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Getty Images)

I had to make a quick decision to either stick around to get more shots, or outrun arriving photographers and beat them to upload. I saw one guy with the ubiquitous white Canon 70-200 zoom lens and I knew he was a pro and just starting to get shooting. After arguing with a cop about getting in closer with the other photographers, I was denied access since I don’t have an official press pass, so I hightailed it out of their and went back home. I knew I had at least a few good shots of the first moments of the disaster.

I edited the images on my computer, sent a few low resolution samples to news editors and got an offer within minutes, accepted and uploaded the high resolution files via FTP. Pierce Wright, senior news editor was instrumental in helping me sort everything out. He sent me the links I needed, walked me through the procedure and ultimately made it possible to get my photos onto the servers and out to the papers

I was very happy to see my photo on the front page of the New York Times website, and elated as more and more news agencies intermixed my photos with others that were shooting on the ground. In a way there a great sense of satisfaction in taking risks, thinking on your feet, getting the job done and seeing the results quickly appear online. On the flip side, I feel terrible that two people died, but if my work helps people become aware of these problems, and if new rules are put in place thanks to the excellent coverage by so many great photographers, then I understand the value of taking pictures and trying to make a difference.

It was a wonderful experience to go through the process, and now I have even more respect for people like Spencer Platt and Paula Bronstein just to name a few, who deal with the chaos of war, not just some screaming cop trying to do his job.

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