There are times, particularly early in the week, when the office of Picture Editor Barbara Henckel is a madhouse, a state of affairs Henckel hasn't had time to notice. She's been running the SI photo department since October of 1981, having moved up in less than a year from deputy editor, and is now the director of an elaborate network that includes 18 staff and contract photographers, innumerable free-lancers all over the world, four photographers' assistants and five negative readers. Assignments come thick and fast, and the logistics of dealing with the resulting mass of film winging its way from around the world to be processed and edited, sometimes within hours of an event, are formidable.
On Mondays Henckel dispenses the photo assignments for the next week's issue and checks on the progress of pictures for feature stories down the line. Throughout the week she also meets with SI editors, who go over story elements in detail—and sometimes have to inform her that the carefully coordinated plans she made days before no longer apply. The news has changed. Tomorrow, Henckel knows, the news could change again.
As SI has increased its use of color, Henckel has deployed more photographers and more assistants with more lighting equipment than ever before. Improving lighting systems is a major priority now, and among the technical advances we are pursuing is an improved flash, allowing for light of the same intensity as in older systems but "visible for a shorter time," Henckel says. "This is a benefit to the photographer, and is less annoying for spectators and TV." She is especially pleased with the greatly improved color quality of our basketball pictures, a result of the fast flash synchronization at [1/200]th of a second and, more recently, at [1/250]th, with the new Nikon FE 2, which permits us to take advantage of ASA 64 film and the range of Nikon lenses.
"Still, I have to assume that nothing will go smoothly," Henckel says. "I have to anticipate that everything will go wrong—the weather, lighting, shipping, personalities. The difficulties are nonstop. It's crazy. I love it."
May 29, 1983
For this week's issue Henckel dispatched four photographers to the fights in Las Vegas, two to operate at ringside, two on opposing platforms above the ring. For the Preakness, she made sure our man got his favorite position on the rail. For a night game between the Dodgers and Expos, she decided to use Kodak's new 1000 ASA negative color film. Throughout, her phone rang constantly, and Henckel spoke brightly with each caller as if she had nothing else to do, but solving the problem and getting off the line so fast the caller could scarcely have known what hit him. "All this," says Henckel calmly, "and hoping to inspire great photographs, too."
Virtually the only time Henckel gets away from the job is when she's in the middle of Long Island Sound on her Cape Dory Typhoon. If she spends her weekends at home in New York, the problems will track her down, which is probably why her cat, Berry, freaks out at the sight of a camera. Any camera.
Henckel is smiling in the picture above, but that is not a smile on the face of the cat.