Rattan Jadoo, Newsday’s chief photographer, remembers what it took to get late local government minister Dhanraj Singh’s photo as if it was yesterday.
“All of sudden we heard Singh jump on a plane and gone to New York. Therese Mills (Newsday’s founder and first Editor in Chief) said, ‘I am giving you a challenge: anybody that have connections…’ I told her forget connections, my sister Ena lived in New York. She said, ‘Okay, call Ena.’
“I called Ena... I told her Singh is flying to New York and gave her the flight number and so on. End said, ‘I am going to be there.’
Ena Jadoo Maharaj was also a photographer, and had taught her brother.
“Ena called me back and said,’ I have his picture.’ She processed it and sent it to us.
“We had that on our front page,” Jadoo recalled proudly.
His 25 years at Newsday are filled with memories like these.
Covering TT’s first and only appearance at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, capturing Pakistan’s fast bowler Waqar Younis and cricket in South Africa are just some of them.
Like Therese Mills, Jadoo began his early career at the Guardian. He spent 13 years there, learning from late chief photographer Rudy Taylor and from his sister.
He developed his skill not only in photography itself, but also printing the photos as a lab technician, in those days of film.
“Rudy Taylor would say, ‘Come let us go in the lab,’ and we would spend about two to three hours: he is printing and I am developing the work. He showed me a lot.”
Jadoo believes his career in photography really started when he took his first front-page photo.
“I remembered I took a picture that made TT go, ‘Wow.’ I was using the old box camera, 120 film.” Those cameras could only take 12 photos.
He recalled that an old National Petroleum (NP) gas station by East Dry River on the highway had exploded in a huge mushroom-shaped cloud. Taylor sent him out, as there was no other photographer around.
Jadoo was able to capture the explosion.
“When I came back and developed the film, I got the actual mushroom, and that made the front page of the Guardian,” Jadoo said.
So when Mills asked him to come to lead the new paper’s photography department, he didn’t hesitate. “I looked up to her from since then,” he recalled.
He remembered Mills calling him at home and asking if he would be interested in something.
She did not tell him what it was right away, as she was heading to Guyana to do some media training, but promised to call when she returned.
“I said ‘Mrs Mills, it has been 13 years I worked with the Guardian and I have always seen you as somebody that is inspiring, and I will always look up to you.’ I told her, ‘Whatever it is, I will follow, and if it is to do with photography and newspaper work, you lay the groundwork, and I trust you and I will follow you.’”
Mills called when she returned and told Jadoo that she and other founding board members were going to start another daily newspaper.
“She told me it is ‘Newsday.’ It is a daily paper and it is going to be a paper with good stuff.
She said she wanted someone to lead the photography department.
“I said. ‘You think I am capable?’
“She said, ‘Yes. You know the work. You have done the work. You have done it. You have taken pictures. You know the lab work and what it is like.’
“I said, ‘If you think I am capable, I put the trust in you.”
Jadoo said proudly that he was Newsday’s first employee. When he came to the Chacon Street office he began setting up a darkroom. There was no other photographer at the time, so Jadoo “did it all, down to mixing the chemicals.”
He had to take photos and then come back and print them. But then he got the chance to look for other photographers and other staff and was able to convince some of his former Guardian co-workers to come to Newsday.
Still, in its earliest days, the staff was very small.
“I worked from 7 am to 7, 8, 9 pm. Sometimes, 10 pm to 11 pm.” He even worked for three months straight – Sunday to Sunday.
Although the paper’s original intent was to sell “good news,” that didn’t last long. Soon, Newsday began reporting crime and other events, because “that was what the public wanted.”
As the ’90s progressed, Newsday and other media moved to digital photography from film, which reduced the time it took to print a photo. Newsday started using digital cameras in about 1996/1997, Jadoo said.
Newsday made him and colleagues like Horace (Monsegue) “proud of ourselves,” Jadoo said. He recalled the long hours both he and Monsegue (now a news editor) would spend getting stories for the paper.
But the true beauty of Newsday for Jadoo was that “we all had inputs into the paper.”
Mills, he added, “listened to everyone, and that is what made Newsday what it was.”
It is Newsday’s penchant for risk-taking and doing things its own way that he hopes continues in the future.
“The younger ones, they need to take chances in doing stuff. You have to know how to do things, to capture things. I hope the paper continues to do things differently,” he said.