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The Perfect Picture Essay Literature & Language Essay (Essay Sample)


The Perfect Picture Essay – Printed below
Instructions: 2 to 4 page essay responding to James Alexander Thom’s “The Perfect Picture.” Essay should be in agreeance with Thom’s decision to not take the picture. MLA format, 12-point font, double-spaced. **Must include at least 3 direct quotes which help support the essay.
The Perfect Picture by James Alexander Thom
It was early in the spring about 15 years ago - a day of pale sunlight and trees just beginning to bud. I was a young police reporter, driving to a scene I didn’t want to see. A man, the police dispatcher’s broadcast said, had accidentally backed his pickup truck over his baby granddaughter in the driveway of the family home. It was a fatality
As I parked among police cars and TV news cruisers, I saw a stocky, white-haired man in cotton work clothes standing near a pickup. Cameras were trained on him, and reporters were sticking microphones in his face. Looking totally bewildered, he was trying to answer their questions. Mostly he was only moving his lips, blinking and choking up.
After a while, the reporters gave up and followed the police into the small white house. I can still picture that devastated old man looking down at the place in the driveway where the child had been. Beside the house was a freshly spaded flower bed and nearby a pile of dark, rich earth.
“I was just backing up there to spread that good dirt,” he said to me, though I had not asked him anything. “I didn’t even know she was outdoors.” He stretched his hand toward the flower bed, then let it flop to his side. He lapsed back into his thoughts, and I, like a good reporter, went into the house to find someone who could provide a recent photo of the toddler.
A few minutes later, with a three-by-five studio portrait of the cherubic child tucked in my pocket, I went toward the kitchen, where the police had said the body was.
I had brought a camera with me - the bulky Speed Graphic that used to be the newspaper reporter’s trademark. Everybody had drifted back out of the house together - family, police, reporters and photographers. Entering the kitchen, I came upon this scene:
On a Formica-topped table, backlighted by a frilly curtained window, lay the tiny body, wrapped in a clean white sheet. Sitting on a chair beside the table, in profile to me and unaware of my presence, was the baby’s grandfather, looking uncomprehendingly at the swaddled corpse.
The house was quiet. A clock ticked. As I watched, the grandfather slowly leaned forward, curved his arms like parentheses around the little form, and then pressed his face to the shroud and remained motionless.
In that hushed moment, I recognized the makings of a prizewinning news photograph. I appraised the light, adjusted the lens setting and distance, locked a bulb in the flashgun, raised the camera, and composed the scene in the viewfinder.
Every element of the picture was perfect: the grandfather in his plain work clothes, his white hair backlighted by sunshine, the child’s form wrapped in the sheet, the atmosphere of the simple home suggested by black iron trivets and World’s Fair souvenir plates on the walls flanking the window. Outside the police could be seen inspecting the fatal rear wheel of the pickup, while the child’s mother and father leaned in each other’s arms.
I don’t know how many seconds I stood there, unable to snap that shutter. I was keenly aware of the powerful storytelling value that photo would have, and my professional conscience told me to take it. Yet I couldn’t make my hand fire that flashbulb and intrude on the poor man’s island of grief.
At length, I lowered the camera and crept away, shaken with doubt about my suitability for the journalistic profession. Of course, I never told the city editor or any fellow reporters about that missed opportunity for a perfect news picture.
Every day, on the newscasts and in the papers, we see pictures of people in extreme conditions of grief and despair. Human suffering has become a spectator sport. And sometimes, as I’m watching news film, I remember that day.
I still feel right about what I did.


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“The Perfect Picture” by James Alexander Thom
Reporters and journalists always encounter horrible scenes in the course of duty. They may be called upon to capture violent crime or accident scenes that invoke fear or dread to viewers. The pictures may negatively affect the victims and their family members. So this makes the issue of responsibility in journalism significant. In James Alexander Thom’s situation, a man had accidentally killed his granddaughter in the driveway while in his pickup (Thom). This essay takes a look at why Thom should not take a picture of this terrible incident.
First, taking a picture will disrespect the victim's family. As a journalist, Thom has to balance between reporting the incident and respecting the family's privacy. The family is in deep grief following the tragic event. The last thing they would want is unnecessary public attention. Respecting their privacy will give the family time to heal and mourn. However, taking pictures and publishing them in the news media will harm the family’s grieving process (Frances). They will have to deal with the constant public scrutiny arising from the graphic images.

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