WHY I'LL NEVER MAKE IT IN PHOTOJOURNALISM
3 June 2005
I like to think I'm a fairly good photographer (though Peggy is better, she tell you). I should be at least fairly good. I've been doing it most of my life.
I got my first Kodak Brownie Box camera when I was 10. Before that we had some sort of a system that was a mail-away camera, just a cardboard box, really, with a wire viewfinder that you lifted up out of the camera body to allow you to center objects. When the film was gone you pushed money into the camera body and mailed it off. They returned your pictures and a new camera to you.
But with the Brownie, I was all set to really get to taking photos.
As anybody who has known me for longer than a week or two will tell you, I am never without a camera. I remember an incident which seemed funny at the time, but in retrospect has a tragic twist to it. We were on a beach. My firend Char and I were standing on a sand hill watching our kids play in the waves. Our husband were with the kids. A wave came in and caught one of our kids and started dragging him back. Walt was right there and pulled him back. I was taking movies of the whole thing. Char joked that I would probably photograph my own children's deaths. Having now lost two children, that comment doesn't seem as funny as it did back then (and no, I didn't photograph either death), but I still take a lot of photos.
Being given my first digital camera took photography to a whole new level. No longer did I have to think about the cost of film and developing. i could shoot anything I wanted to. I could take 1,000 photos of a single rose, if I wanted. I could record every cute thing that any animal in our house or in the zoo did. The world was my photographic oyster and discovering so many places on the Internet where you can post pictures to show them to others just gave me all the more encouragement.
But there is one obstacle I have never been able to overcome. It seems all the most memorable photos that we see are pictures of people. Who can forget the haunted look of the woman in Iran on the cover of National Geographic, or John-John's salute as his father's coffin passed by, or the soldier kissing his girl in Times Square. We see haunting pictures that depict poverty, pain, and a host of other world ills.
I will never create a photo like that because while I can take pretty good candid shots of friends and acquaintances, I am uncomfortable overtly taking photos of strangers (and covert photos are never as good, I don't think).
Yesterday was World Photo Day and I signed up to participate, thinking it would be fun to go out searching for photos to take to submit. Then I read that the point was to see photos of people around the world on this date. I couldn't walk through the arboretum and take pictures of ducks sailing down Putah Creek, or catch a cute expression of Sheila's face. They wanted people pictures.
I couldn't even use this cute picture of an SPCA puppy who had fallen asleep with his paw hanging into the water dish.
I went to Borders Books, thinking I might be able to get a photo of people sitting and reading books, but when push came to shove, I was uncomfortable doing that. The best I could come up with at Borders was this:
Even this was difficult to take, because I was uncomfortable that people around me would see me taking pictures of this guy stocking shelves.
In the afternoon, I took Sheila to the vet for her vaccinations and to get her toenails clipped. I thought I could shoot some pictures there, but I was too uncomfortable to ask the vet tech if she would mind if I took pictures, so that photo op went begging.
But I lucked out that last night was the Farmers Market, the one place where I don't feel too uncomfortable taking pictures. I love sitting by the fountain and taking pictures of the kids playing, though it's difficult to get the settings right, since it is a combination of bright sun and dark shade. I loved this photo:
I took lots of pictures of this kid and this was the best of the bunch. I also followed this kid around as well.
We moved to the grassy area to listen to the Irish musicians who were playing. There was a guy who was swinging his kid around and I loved the photo I got of him, though it's not the best from an exposure point of view.
The bravest photo I took was of this woman who was sitting off in a chair with her dog. I was able to get close because of my 12x zoom lens, but I noticed she was looking right at me and I was very uncomfortable actually taking her photo.
So I was able to take some stealth photos, but only because there were thousands of people there and I was using my zoom lens to hide behind. To get the truly good photos I would have to be much more blatant and much closer and I know I just don't have the nerve for that.
But it is fun to sneak zoom photos now and then!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is the photo I finally submitted