Blast from the Past – “Wild Art”

Pictures as Filler

It’s unlikely that a definition of the phrase “wild art” can be found in any dictionary but most of the newspapers for which I worked had voracious appetites for them,” i.e. stand-alone photos of almost anything that could run “wild” in an edition’s columns as filler. Lots were provided by the picture services of AP, UPI and others as well as from mailings by various public relations firms. Most were innocuous enough and a few even were mildly interesting.

Staff photographers constantly were reminded that production of these bits of photographic fluff was expected between regular assignments. When the picture editor screamed “I need some wild art!,” it was understood that the appropriate response should be “How many columns?” and the latest crop proffered.

Certain wild art topics proved so predictable that they fell into categories such as “Nuns at Play” (habit-clad Sisters roller skating, playing golf, riding bicycles, etc.) and “Men with Large Vegetables.”Here’s an example of the latter, taken by the author:

This guy, obviously proud of his squash, knew that if he brought it down to The Sherman (Texas) Democrat office, someone would take a picture and that there was a chance it would appear in print a few days later. I promptly ushered him into our tiny studio and took some exposures. This is the one that ran. Actually, I’m rather proud of this picture and consider it an above average example of the man-displaying-oversized-vegetable genre.

So, when driving to and from the latest grip-and-grin photo session at the mayor’s office, you were supposed to keep an eye out for anything that might even remotely qualify. Sadly, some editors weren’t above — how shall I put this? — staging certain shots. Once, one actually suggested that I obtain a large bone from a butcher shop, place it in a large dog’s mouth and photograph the pair against the background of a local cemetery. I’m not kidding. Appalled, I simply ignored the request and apparently he forgot about it.

Anyway, here are a few more by me that were published many years ago (and, yes, I wrote the embarrassing captions), including one representing another seemingly insatiable, small newspaper photographic category — vehicular accidents:

Shine bikeFirst Turtle Shot - ShermanDeath Car - Abilene-Edit















Earlier, I mentioned that newspapers regularly received mailings from PR firms. Packages often included 8×10 glossy photos that were intended to draw the reader’s eye. I no longer recall what the shot below intended to spotlight (Thanksgiving?) but the caption that accompanied it was, ahem,  — “Turkey and the Squaw.” It boggles the mind but I can almost guarantee that some newspaper, somewhere with an extra hole to fill actually published it.

P.S. I am delighted to report that pictorial nonsense persists. In Google Images, type “Nuns at Play” or “Men with Large Vegetables” and you will be rewarded with some fine specimens. Unfortunately, “Turkey and the Squaw” is not represented.