Spectators check on a cat that was revived by receiving oxygen from firefighters after it was overcome by smoke during a Lowell, Ma. house fire (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).
Every photographer dreams of getting a life and death spot news photo, but one of my personal favorites was saving an animal, not a human. It was a slow evening until a fire call came over the police radio. Arriving at the scene, I saw firefighters exiting a house from which smoke was billowing and from which most occupants had been evacuated. One firefighter came out holding a cat, placed it in the corner of the front porch, and raced back into the house looking for additional occupants. There was no one else inside and he came out alone, walking more leisurely because he thought the danger was over. Some spectators alerted him that the cat didn’t seem to be moving, so he picked up the cat, put an oxygen mask on it, and laid it gently on the ground. Children gathered around to watch as the cat began to stir slowly, they touched the cat to feel it breathing, and it quickly recovered in good health. The firefighter’s oxygen saved it from smoke inhalation. (Note: the dark, wet spot on the pavement is condensation from the oxygen mask, not blood.)
1) Life-and-death photos can be taken of animals as well as humans.
2) When possible, capture the concern expressed by rescuers, onlookers, or loved ones.
3) A photographer should always be ready to offer help before taking the picture.