My Dubious Distinction

May 19, 2006

In its 50 years, The Tico Times has never published a worse picture than the shot I took of Lake Managua. Readers who opened the Oct. 28, 1994 issue to the page 19 story on contamination levels in the lake were subjected to a photo depicting overgrown weeds in the foreground with an indistinguishable mass of gray where the near shoreline, lake, far shoreline and sky should have been. Readers had to take our word for it that the picture was, in fact, of the lake because it cannot be seen.

The photo, which earned me much deserved criticism from my colleagues, was officially proclaimed the paper s worst ever by then-reigning champ John McPahul, whose late 1980s picture of drought-affected cattle caused the professional photographer who developed the film to break into tears.

The photo was worse than any of the plethora of dogs behinds that made their way into the paper. It was even worse than a picture of people standing in line the photographer took from the driver s seat of his car; we know it was a drive-by shooting because the car s side door mirror is visible in a lower corner.

Not be outdone by my feat, the next month I took what could arguably be the second-worst picture in Tico Times history an awful shot of a dry irrigation ditch that ran on page 8 of the Nov. 11, 1994 edition. But alas, even I was unable to outdo myself.

Fortunately, improved technology and printing mean that it is highly unlikely that any picture approaching the wretched quality of my shots will ever appear in The Tico Times again. That means that my title is safe and that I will likely be able to go to my grave proclaiming to have taken The Worst Picture in Tico Times History.

Though ashamed of my photography, I am proud to have worked at The Tico Times, a paper that still remains far better than any mid-sized foreign-language paper I have come across anywhere in the world. I am honored to have worked for Richard Dyer and glad that Dery Dyer was there to help me transform my poor writing into palatable copy. Without their leadership and hardened sense for news, The Tico Times would never have become the weekly must read it is today.

Congratulations to The Tico Times on its 50th birthday and congratulations to its readers for maintaining an independent, family-run paper that reflects the local spirit, values, quirks and idiosyncrasies a rarity in this age of corporate publishing consolidation. The Tico Times has added much to the community and the country through its coverage over the years, in spite of having published my lousy pictures.

Brian Harris

(Brian Harris worked at The Tico Times from 1993-96 and 2002-03. He has remained in Costa Rica. After leaving The Tico Times, he went to work for a business newswire that (thankfully) did not offer subscribers a photo service. He currently freelances and is Reuters Central America Stringer for Commodities, the Central America Correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and a Special Correspondent for The Miami Herald. Though he has improved his photography a tad, he does NOT recommend you hire him to photograph your wedding, bar mitzvah or scenic panoramas.)

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