We become photographers for one reason or another. I’d always enjoyed taking snapshots as a child, and when the announcement was made one day at middle-school that they were going to be in need of a photographer, I jumped at the chance. Not as a way to express myself creatively, or contribute something to the efforts of the yearbook staff. Nope, I simply saw it as an opportunity to do something that might help me stand out in the crowd. I was shy kid, and “photographer” sounded like a quick and easy way to gain an identity. A camera and any kind of credentials will also gain you access to places other kids can’t get into. Win.
But, I found myself starting to take the whole thing very seriously. I read books and interviews about White House and war photographers, and photojournalists who risked everything to get the shot. I learned to develop my own film and prints. A big day for me was when my mom purchased a starter dark room set. I was 13.
A few months later, I was really into it. So much so, that when Hurricane Allen (1980) plowed through the Gulf of Mexico, straight for our area I couldn’t wait to capture some of the action. I got my first front page credit in one of the local papers for a shot of a burning building taken just as the hurricane had past through.
Shot with a Minolta XG-7 on Tri-X (the film photojournalists shot almost exclusively with), I made it home, developed and printed the image myself.
After that, I became a busy sports stringer. Shooting high-school and college games. The older shooters on the sidelines looked at me like I was just in the way and didn’t deserve to be there, on their turf. Who does this little kid think he is. And they’re PAYING him? He moves around too much along the sidelines, he uses a flash in weird ways.
And, my shots were always impressive. And I kept getting hired.
So, when I hear older photographers now — really, my generation — talk about how they don’t like the new kids and their ways of doing things, I have to laugh. Those new kids are going to rule the day soon. I’m happy for them. And I want to be along for the ride, instead of just another old guy left on the sidelines.