This photograph might have no immediate worth, but the act of being there, and seeing the ball, and interacting with Joe, and Cordell, and Coach Lee, and Angel… That’s invaluable, and each failed frame is only part of a process of building my understanding, of building the next frame.
I find it typical that I would finish a week in New York City with some of the biggest editors and photographers in the news industry by going to the International Center for Photography and buying what is probably one of the only books they sell that doesn’t actually have any pictures in it.
Photographs not Taken is written to explain the different experiences photographers have undergone for which there are no photographic documents. It’s superb, or at least the first 20 pages that I read were phenomenal. I haven’t touched it since i left New Jersey.
I plan on finishing it, but right now I have a lot on my mind. I am still processing last week, but I went through my journal and pulled out some of the notes and lines that stood out from the standard, “Master the technical, be flexible…”
I’ve heard it before, that you have to be passionate and know the reason for doing what you do, my professor, William Snyder put that to me over a year ago. “Why do you take pictures? I don’t want you to answer that. Think about it.”
I’ve thought about it, but what I am finding is that I do not know how, and that is why I am here. This week, I made strides on learning the how, but it is largely similar to conversations I have had in the past with other photographers. Perhaps that’s all the more for the truth behind it.
From Santiago Lyon, Director of Photography and Vice President at the Associated Press:
"Good photography takes time and a personal detachment from the work (in ref. to the quality and completeness)…Photography is a direct reflection of the photographer…Direction comes from Passion, you have to put your heart into the work…Get specific, whether that’s on a subject or an issue, a region, etc. Stay focused psychologically…Show something interesting from your access, and avoid entitlement, it closes far more doors than it will ever open… People will take you at your own estimation. Confidence. Walk into a building like you own the damn place… Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The best picture in the world is useless if nobody sees it. This is business."
I almost joked upon walking into the newsroom, “Hey, I look kind of like that.” I thought it was amusing how my ID badge looked like the wall of portraits behind him. Fortunately I didn’t, because they were portraits of AP photographers that have been killed while covering stories dating back to 1836. After nearly an hour, I realized, Santiago Lyon was probably the DOP for at least one of those photographers.
The one valuable piece of information that really jumped at me from Human Rights Watch, where we met the Communications Director, Emma Daly, was to encrypt your notebook. Sometimes the act of making the photograph can have fewer ramifications than publishing it. Your notebook can jeopardize lives.
From Clay Patrick McBride:
"It begins and ends with work… Drink your own koolaid… Every time you kick the world, it kicks back… Pictures are bricks, they will teach you. Every one is needed to build an empire… Community is important… He who does the most with the least wins…"
His work is profound in ways I can’t begin to see or think. His bravado and candor were also impressive, and also when it faltered. It was amazing to meet him because he was refreshingly real.
The morning we spent with Frank Fournier steeped questions and thoughts onto the night before, only I was on virtually no sleep. From my notes:
"The least I got hired, the better it was for me. I got to spend more time working on my own stories… Thinking differently, not just seeing differently. Avoid the pack mentality. Where everyone else was, I was not. People are fettered out of the single layer stories. You cannot just ‘go.’ Single stories are unrelatable. You do not know who will see your work, or how it will impact them… Our work has to be the best it can be for the subject… We have to raise questions… We have to shower ourselves of the conventions we’ve learned and reconstruct our own understanding of the world… Open your eyes, question, keep pushing.”
[Time] only works with really measured and safe photographers.—Patrick Witty
Commit to your stories…
I’m at a point in life where I’m working through “angst” or fear, of things I don’t know and cannot understand. The realization of those things is slow to occur though. There is a real-world counterpart to the sublime communication within photography. I have to master that element right now, the just-going-to-bed-and-making-deadlines-and-invoicing-and-captioning-correctly side.
It’s going to take practice, and repetition, and living, and lots of glorious failures, but it will be worth it.