Newshound Montage
MY LIFE AS A NEWSHOUND 1977-1994
Picture this: I’m a college art student in the Photo Editor’s office of The Northern Star campus
newspaper begging for a job. He looks me up and down with skepticism. “Art student, eh? You got
your own camera?” This interview isn’t going well. “You’ll need it, ‘cause we don’t provide free
cameras...to...art...students.”

“OK,” he finally offers, Here’s one free roll of Tri-X film and a street address. Go to this veterinarian’s
office, shoot some pictures of a dog about to be hacked open on an operating table. Come right back,
soup the film, you do know how to soup film, right? Soup means develop, kid! If your pictures are any
good they’ll make tomorrow’s edition and you’ve got the job.”

To which he added this final pearl of wisdom: “Remember, kid, a real photojournalist thinks quick on
his feet, improvises when neccesary, and never, ever comes back without the shot.”

So went my very first attempt to “audition” for a newspaper photography job. Attempting to gross me
out, the photo editor gave me a dog of an assignment, no pun intended. Clearly, he expected me to
fail, as I was going against the grain. Art students didn’t get these jobs, Journalism school kids did.

It’s early 1977, and I’m attending art school at Northern Illinois University outside Chicago as a
Graphic Design major. Like most 22 year-old kids in college, I need money. When a friend of mine
suggests applying for a job as a photographer at the campus newspaper, I jump at the chance.

I’m studying photography. As part of the Design curricula, I’m required to learn basic darkroom skills
so I can develop and print photos and graphics to put in my Senior Portfolio.

The theory here is, create an incredible portfolio of stunning visuals, blow your professors away with
your seemingly inexhaustible talent, and graduate with a BFA. Then follow all the other graduates
like yourself downtown and compete for a job as a highly paid graphic designer for a national ad
agency.

Except, as fate would have it, an unconscious collie lying on its back on an operating table changed
my entire life’s career path.

I must have passed the audition, because I got the job and worked as a student staff photographer for
the next two years.

Later, upon graduation in December of 1978, I actually did try a stint as a display designer for a big
container company because they offered pay that was too good to turn down. But after six months,
they canned me. They said I didn’t fit in with their corporate culture. Was it the long hair?

Admittedly, I used to do very un-corporate stuff on my lunch break, like walk around the plant with my
camera and make art photos of boxcars and clouds over the factory buildings. Maybe they thought I
was a spy. I was so happy to get out of there, I actually drove home singing the day I got fired from
corporate America.

Fortunately, I had a plan B. Assembling a nice little portfolio collection of news photos from my
Northern Star days, I managed to parlay them into a freelance job at The Daily Herald, the third
biggest paper in Chicago. I spent the winter of 1979 happily shooting high school basketball games.
The pay was bad, but I enjoyed it. I was good at it, and I knew it.

By April of 1980, things were looking up. I applied for a full-time job at the Free Press Newspaper
Group in Carpentersville, IL and as luck would have it, my soon-to-be boss was a classmate of my
soon-to-be first wife.

Again, the pay wasn’t great. But I became immersed in photojournalism and set my sights on
achieving recognition. In those days, awards meant everything and they were how you climbed the
ladder to a bigger market.

I went on to win so many plaques and certificates, I ran out of wall space to hang them on. Then in the
fall of 1982, The Daily Herald hired me full-time. My wife and I moved downtown, and I began shooting
metro assignments. It was during this period that I started covering major league sports.

In 1983, I won the title of Regional Photographer Of The Year from the National Press Photographers
Association. In September, my daughter was born. It was a big year for me.

By the mid-80’s, I got tired of shoveling snow, and decided a sunnier climate was for me. After turning
down several job offers on the East coast, I was ready to move West to California or South to the
Sunbelt.

An opportunity presented itself in South Florida. A very small newspaper (now defunct) called the
Hollywood Sun-Tattler offered me an instant position and I grabbed it. So in January, 1987 I bought a
Hawaiian shirt, packed up my family and moved to the Sunshine State.

The next few years were tough ones as the new job didn’t last and my first marriage went aground on
the rocks. I found I no longer enjoyed the adrenalin rush of chasing fire trucks and ambulances to
scenes of disaster. Covering news stories became distasteful to me.

My last full-time news job was with the Palm Beach Daily News. The hours were long, the pay was
still bad. But “The Shiny Sheet,” as it was called, was no ordinary newspaper. I hob-nobbed with the
rich and famous, photographing celebrities like Donald Trump and Burt Reynolds. Over time, I made
contacts in Palm Beach which would serve me well in later years. A new woman in my life became my
second wife.

Palm Beach offered lucrative moonlighting opportunities for an ambitious photographer. I found myself
shooting antiques, home interiors and portraits for wealthy private clients. Eventually, freelancing
brought in more than my day job. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to read the tea leaves as to where my
future was heading. So on November 10, 1994 I said goodbye to the newspaper industry and started
Sigvision, my commercial freelance business, which has thrived ever since.

Today, I look back on my “newshound” days with profound gratitude. I have learned photo skills on the
street that no studio could ever teach. Photojournalists learn their trade the hard way. I have been
shot at, suffered smoke inhalation, been roughed-up by security guards, even arrested and had my
film confiscated. But I learned to think quick on my feet, improvised when necessary, and I never,
ever came back from an assignment without “the shot.”

WHO CAME UP WITH “SIGVISION?”

One day, my boss at The Daily Herald, Director Of Photography Tom Grieger, needed to send a
photographer out on an assignment that required a unique perspective. He came out of his office,
turned to me, and exclaimed “Let’s get some SIG-VISION on this!” and that is how the name was
born.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER MAGAZINE AUGUST 1984




Copyright Sig Bokalders and Sigvision Photography, Inc. All Rights Reserved.