Inspiration

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Murray Beckers photograph of the Hindenberg

Published

It was to be a routine assignment. Assembled as part of a massive PR campaign by the Hindenburg's parent company, twenty-two still and newsreel photographers are on hand for the landing the Hindenburg. The photographer Murray Becker of Associated Press is one of them.

It is raining and the zeppelin is late. The photographers are becoming anxious as the light begins to fade and one or two start planning to depart for home. The PR people step in and assure them the world's grandest and fastest form of transport will arrive at any minute. At 7.20 pm, they are proved right as all 803 feet of the dirigible drift into view. Ropes are dropped out of the nose of the ship, and men in the field try and moor them. The back motors of the ship are holding it just enough to keep it stationary.

Now the photographers act fast. Becker and his colleagues start framing the picture and as they point their cameras skywards the airship explodes in front of their eyes. Murray Becker swings his heavy 4x5 Speed Graphic. One shot, two shots, seconds ticking as he struggles for a third, all the while murmuring "My God! My God!"

Photographers Bill Deekes, Sam Shere, Gus Pasquarella and Bill Springfield react alike and within the 47 seconds of destruction, each made sure they got the important shot the peak of the explosion.

All four shots are nearly identical the dirigible in the air, mid-section to stern a mass of flames. Becker himself took 15 shots, from first flare-up to the rescue of the survivors. When it's over and his film holders are headed for Newark to be processed, Becker finally leans back and begins to cry.

It was his shot that was syndicated around the globe.

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Pictured below, Murray Becker of Associated Press.

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