Rover Mill Road in West Friendship, c.1993

In 1988 I arrived at the Howard County Times fresh out of college. Back in those days the Times was published as an oversized tabloid, known within the industry as a "stretch tab." This allowed for a photo-heavy, visually sophisticated presentation which was anchored by the newspaper's weekly cover stories.

Cover stories allow a photographer to develop ideas over a series of images — cover, inside lede, secondaries, and detail shots. At the Patuxent Publishing-owned Columbia Flier and Howard County Times of the early 1990s, cover stories were given a luxurious amount of space and beautiful design. They received a minimum of a full-page cover and four inside pages with no embedded ads. Some stories went twice that long.

That wasn't necessarily a nod to great photography. We simply had space to fill. The staff of eight young photographers shot for a total of thirteen weekly newspapers with what can only be described as a glorious amount of editorial news hole. One of the papers, the Columbia Flier, sometimes topped 250 pages.

Shooting a single cover story is a wonderful opportunity for any young photographer. In 1993 alone I photographed over a hundred of them. I was in heaven.

The image above was the cover photo for a piece by reporter Susan Thornton, entitled All Quiet on the Western Front. Her story was about how life was different in western Howard County as compared to the more suburban eastern end. Susan had pre-written the copy. I drove west with a medium format film camera, looking for photos to match the phrases I had circled from her story.

Since both having joined Patuxent Publishing in 1988, Susan and I had grown to be frequent collaborators on cover stories. By 1993 when this story was published, we were newlyweds. Our collaboration continues to this day, with two adult children as our most successful joint project.

An oversized framed print of this photo hangs in our upstairs hallway.

Tags: Sense of Place

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