Professor's latest film profiles photojournalists

One photographer pulls on a flak jacket and helmet and heads into a riot. Another is pulled off a fashion show and reassigned after a plane crashes into the World Trade Center. Yet another waits for hours just to take a picture of Britain's prime minister getting into his car.

A photo of SF State Professor Ken Kobré covering a clash between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers outside Jerusalem for his film,

SF State Professor of Journalism Ken Kobré covers a clash between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers outside Jerusalem for his film, "Deadline Every Second." Photo credit: Oded Balilty, AP

Although images from Associated Press (AP) photographers are seen the world over, the viewer rarely gets a glimpse at what goes into capturing them. SF State Professor of Journalism Ken Kobré provides that glimpse in his documentary, "Deadline Every Second." The film will be shown in San Francisco on May 17.

"I really wanted to show off the ‘behind the scenes’ of what an AP photographer does and where the photos you see came from," said Kobré, who has taught photo and video journalism at SF State since 1986. To make the film, Kobré went on location with award-winning AP photographers, interviewing them before, during and after they take photos that will be used in newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide.

"Photography is the international medium," Kobré said. "It doesn't require words. It's the language that everyone can understand."

For more than 10 years, Kobré has been making documentaries. His recent look at what goes into making an edition of "Sports Illustrated" magazine caught the attention of AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon, who asked if Kobré could make AP photographers his next subject.

In the film, Kobré interviews a dozen photographers covering stories as varied as a riot in Jerusalem, the Tour de France, wildfires in Santa Barbara, a gay rights demonstration in San Francisco and the British prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street in London. In several instances, Kobré is on the front lines of dangerous situations alongside the photographers. While in Jerusalem, he found himself in the middle of a clash between Palestinian youth and the Israeli army, pulling on a flak jacket and helmet of his own to shadow the AP photographer covering the conflict.

The photographers' ability to remain professional in difficult situations impressed Kobré. AP photographers must also work with the knowledge that news agencies across the world are counting on them, and that if they do not properly capture the moment, there's a good chance no one will. Equally impressive, Kobré said, was their camaraderie and teamwork, as each recognized their image would be just one part of a larger news package produced by AP.

"They were extremely professional no matter the pressure they were under," Kobré said. "No matter what the conditions, they kept their cool. "

Kobré's own experience as a photojournalist helped him to give viewers a better understanding of what goes into the photos they see every day.

"Most people are surprised by the effort it takes and come away with sympathy for what the photographer has to go through," Kobré said. "You can also get an idea of what the photographer is looking for to take great pictures and how many pictures they have to take before they get the iconic one that makes a good photograph."

"Deadline Every Second" was co-produced by John Hewitt, SF State Professor Emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, and will be screened in San Francisco at 7 p.m. May 17 at the City Club of San Francisco, 155 Sansome Street. The screening is free but space is limited and RSVPs are required. To RSVP, e-mail To learn more about the film or purchase a copy,

Kobré's other documentaries include "Inside Sports Illustrated," "Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry," and "Shooting Stars: Assignment Cannes Film Festival." He is considering a film about gender assumptions in education for his next project. He is also the author of "Photojournalism: The Professional's Approach," now in its sixth edition. To learn more, visit

-- Jonathan Morales