CHECK OUT THE PHOTOGRAPH AT RIGHT. Notice the grim set to the man's face, the eerie lighting, the ominous grouping of dark figures in the background, the strangely unfamiliar yet horribly familiar profile of the weapon in his hands. The image has the perfect composition and taut drama of a noir movie poster, or the all-too-real threat of some asymmetrical Eastern European warfare.
And this is a photo in an issue about education.
One thing I've discovered over the years: Getting great photos for stories about education can be challenging. As important and dramatic as what goes on in a classroom can be, it just doesn't often look exciting. And there are just so many photo illustrations involving different iterations of apples one can do (and I confess to instigating more than a couple).
It helps that Magazine deputy editor Sydney Trent, who steers the education issues, has a terrific eye for stories that break the mold, such as the one about a college campus craze in which students hunt one another day and night with Nerf guns. Students sprinting around with toy guns obviously presents some visual possibilities, but it takes real virtuosity to capture it in the lens of a camera. That's where Magazine photo editor Evan Kriss and assistant photo editor Jennifer Beeson come in. They are first and foremost keen judges of talent. In a town not widely known for its photographers, they've managed to assemble a virtuoso crew, including Alexey Tolchinsky, who landed in Washington from Moscow in 1999 to work in Internet technology.
"He's got that 24-hour kind of thing about him," Kriss says. Meaning that he's driven to work day and night, if an assignment requires it. And this one did -- this game of Nerf assassination went on at all hours, in unpredictable bursts, for days. "It wasn't the kind of situation where he could just stand in one place and capture the essence of the game," Kriss observes. "That's not seeing. You have to work yourself into position. You have to be in the right spot. Alexey knows how to do that."
You can see the result in the photography here.
Another local discovery, Veronika Lukasova, who came here from the Czech Republic in 1998, is responsible for the elegant tableaux on the cover and in the story about the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
"A master of color and composition," Kriss says of Lukasova. Her photos are a splash of Broadway in the humble heart of a D.C. school. And there's nary an apple in sight.
Tom Shroder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.