“Grip and grins,” they used to be called.
These days, readers can see bunches of them in “Tri-County Snapshots,” a page of photographs that appears in one or more issues per week.
In terms of artistic merit, the “experts” used to tell newspapers that these were terrible photographs to use in papers that claimed to be “news” papers. Sadly, some newspapers bought into that hogwash.
What is kinetic about two people standing there, shaking hands and passing a check, and grinning (or not) straight into the camera lens?
Not much is kinetic. There is no motion, no action, in contrast with, for example, a sports page photograph of a football player bursting through the line of scrimmage, with bodies leaping, falling, flying, etc.
So those “news” papers, back in the Golden Age of print newspapers (1940-1980) stopped printing such photographs. They were “recognition” photos, or so the reasoning went, but not “news” photos.
Guess what happened?
Many of those elite (and elitist) “news” papers went out of business. Those that survived shrank dramatically.
Local community newspapers, however, knew better. Those “grip and grin” photos feature real people in real communities, almost always doing good things for other people in our communities. They “recognize” something; it is called “news,” because, by definition, news is something that people need or want to know. The dictionary puts it more formally: “newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.”
Note the use of “or” between “recent” and “important.” There is a time factor to news; eventually, it becomes history, not news. But “important” is a trap for news organizations that decide what is or is not important — without listening to those who view or read the information.
People enjoy seeing photographs of persons we know when they show up in newspapers, whether the people in the photograph are grandchildren performing a school play or grandparents attending 50-year high school class reunions.
Newspapers put many “grip and grin” photos into groups, because readers seem to like that arrangement. Others appear singly, often in conjunction with news stories, allowing readers to put faces to the names mentioned in news stories.
Shaking hands is a gesture of friendship, of connectedness.
And in this worrisome world, isn’t it nice to see people smiling?
Yes, “grip and grin” photographs have real news value, because they reflect the people and activities in our communities.
— Denny Bonavita