He asked, "Is it O.K. if I smile?"

Sorry. Yeah, it's sentimental I guess, but it's really ok, because they're tough, these guys, and at least one gal, who looks like she could handle anything--and probably has had to.

It's a wonderful piece [with a slideshow]. Don't miss Firefighter Augie Simoncini [unfortunately no photo].

But for all the ribbing, most firefighters took their portraits quite seriously. Andy Johnson, a first-year firefighter, or probie, at Engine Company 278 in Sunset Park, initially shrugged off the suggestion that he have his picture taken. But once he agreed, he quickly became engrossed in composing the photograph.

"I can't see the tool in this shot," he said, looking at the small digital screen on the back of Ms. Yanes's camera. In the shot he is sitting on the fender of the engine with an ax slung over one shoulder. "Can we reshoot it?"

"Of course" is her reply. "Let's do it again."

The photos of firefighters who died on Sept. 11 that were released to the news media were official portraits in dress uniform or were "probie shots," taken of young firefighters when they first join the department. Few firefighters have pictures of themselves in their working gear, the way they would like to be depicted.

"We have this picture they take of us in probie school," said Lt. Bob Hartie, a firefighter in Brooklyn. "And they told us, `You never want to see this picture in the paper, because if you do, it means you are dead.' So guys are kind of superstitious about that picture. It's nice to have something else."

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Published on September 3, 2002 12:58 PM.

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