As the traffic manager for our photography department, Mary Morel is adept at avoiding production-snarling gridlock and leaping over deadline-extending potholes. To ensure that film is delivered on time for processing in the 28th-floor lab in the Time & Life Building in New York or in labs in other cities, she must estimate when an event will end, anticipate how long it will take to transport the film to the nearest airport and then track its progress. Morel handles an average of 30 shipments consisting of more than 105,000 pictures every week, and she is in frequent touch with our photographers in the field.
For this issue, Morel made arrangements for the photos taken at the four NFL playoff games; oversaw delivery of film to labs in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as in New York; and helped coordinate our Fiesta Bowl coverage, which included satellite transmission from California to New York of digitized photographs from the game in Tempe, Ariz. The potential for snafus in her job gives her a jitter or two, especially when, as usually happens, film shipped by air is not hand-carried.
Fortunately, Morel is resourceful. "There are two tacks you can take when the airlines tell you they can't find your package," she says. "You can either scream at them, 'Find the film!' or you can say, 'Please, this is for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, our current issue.' " Morel prefers the latter approach, and she can be persuasive. "Sometimes I hear Mary on the phone and I picture some airline at a standstill while everyone tries to help," says director of photography Joe Marshall.
Morel, 31, has a diverse background. "Because of my name [which denotes a kind of mushroom], I used to think I came from a long line of mushroom farmers," she says. "Turns out I come from a long line of mechanics." Her grandparents, Edmond and Louise Morel, emigrated from France before World War I and opened the first gas station in Roselle. N.J. Morel grew up there before earning a bachelor's degree in urban planning from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1980.
Morel's many postcollege jobs included bartending ("It wasn't glamorous by any stretch of the imagination"), processing donations in the development office at Columbia University ("It was too quiet—like a church") and working as a dispatcher for a Manhattan maid service and as a copy editor for a legal publisher. She came to Time Inc. two years ago and to SI's photo traffic operation last spring. Although she has picked up skills at each desk (or bar) she has been behind, not everything rubs off. She contends, "I am probably the worst photographer in the world."