Photographer's job turns in an instant at State Fair tragedy


INDIANAPOLIS - A local photographer was front and center at the State Fair grandstand Saturday. His photos have gone global because he says they show the strength of concert-goers who helped others hurt in the collapse.

As a photographer, Steve Baker has spent decades documenting some of the biggest events in Indianapolis. For 30 years, he's preserved images from The Indy 500, Circle City Classic, and Mini-Marathon, along with festivals and fairs.

"Split-second moments are a lot of what I do,"  Baker said.  "I really enjoy the high energy of the many things that Indianapolis offers."

But this past Saturday at the State Fair, Baker's job took a turn. He went from photographing fun to capturing chaos, in an instant.

"You don't go to a concert to see what we saw that day," Baker said. He says the day started much differently.

"That day was beautiful, I mean just an incredible day. Then all of a sudden, I saw a black sky and I was, by act of God, in the middle of the stands at a perfect opportunity. It was a perfect storm."

The storm led to that catastrophic stage collapse at the Sugarland concert.

Steve Baker should have been right below the stage, right in harm's way. But he wanted a wider view from the grandstands. When the rigging went down, Baker suddenly went from professional detachment to personal involvement behind the lens.

"It was surreal and I just started shooting. I knew that those were my friends on either side and that I needed to document, camera in hand,"  Baker explained.

He snapped photos of the crowds and the collapse, that Baker later learned, ended the life of his good friend, security guard Glenn Goodrich.

They'd worked together at dozens of events through the years.

"I never saw Glenn without a smile. He was a very positive person and God decided to take him that day."

A few of Baker's photos have gone global, through the Reuters news agency.

They're made memorable not because of the tragedy, but the triumph of Hoosiers helping Hoosiers.

One of the photos depicts people lifting scaffolding, trying to save those who were hurt, as an American flag flaps in the background.

"I saw a hundred something people trying to hold a truss up and that's what I know is people jump in things, they don't jump away from things,"  Baker said.  "Look at their arms. That's what jumped out at me is that these people didn't have to do this. It was a decision made by people who I think are fantastic people. that's why I took what I took."

They're images Baker now considers the most important of his career. After taking pictures of the tragedy, Baker says he put down his camera and helped care for people hurt in the collapse.

See a slide show of Baker's pictures. Please note cannot publish them due to copyright restrictions.