The negative sleeve reads, “Gator Guard, 1/27/81”. I have stacks of negatives in glassine sleeves as a legacy from my job in college, which was as a staff photographer for the Independent Florida Alligator, the newspaper serving the University of Florida campus.
I recall doing my share of grip-and-grin pics and photos of visiting scholars and celebrities. But one thing that was consistently being provided by other staff photographers was “feature art”, the picture splashed on the page for no other reason than that it made people look at the paper twice. I remember just after lunch that day when the photo editor, Kim Kulish, caught me upstairs in the hall outside the darkroom and told me bluntly, “You will have feature art by 5.” OK, so he knew how to give people incentive. That still didn’t make it simple to actually deliver. Fortune favors the prepared, and I got over to campus.
Gator Guard is a drill team made up of ROTC students, and they happened to be out practicing. I have three negatives on the strip in the sleeve, the first an uninspired and uninspiring long shot down the line of students. As I recall, they did some fairly typical march maneuvers, but then they ended up in a rough circle around the drill leader, suddenly flipping their bayonet-tipped drill rifles inward, stopping just a few inches from the drill leader’s face. That was different, and I got a photo, but the angle was such that I could only see about three of the bayonets. I got a better angle on the group as they repeated the drill, and got the third photo, the one shown above. So I did actually have something for Kim when I got back to the Alligator, and they ran the shot and put it out on the AP Wire, making it the first photo of mine to get broad distribution.
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