Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Respect Your Elders...

There's a question I ask my self every time I load my fancy cam, light kit, tripod, and various other pieces of gear necessary to make television, into the vacant abyss of a live truck: "Why do I do this?"

The truth is, there is no simple answer.  Sure, I need health insurance.  A steady paycheck is pretty nice.  Unlimited access to local politicians? - Not so exciting, but stick with me for a moment...  I'm going somewhere with this.

My job is different than any other on the planet.  I meet new people every day.  Sometimes, it's on the best day of their life, and sometimes... it's on their worst.  News photographers stick their lenses in the faces of perfect strangers and quietly record history.  It might not be yours or theirs, but it is someones history.  It's a delicate science that even the most decorated scholar couldn't master without years of practice and perfection.  It's an art I will forever be perfecting.

Have you ever pinned a microphone on a mother who just lost her third child to gang violence?  Have you ever asked a homeless guy how he plans to keep warm when the temperature dips below 32 degrees tonight?  Ever wiped fresh soot out of your eyes while a home continues to smolder in the back ground of an interview you're about to conduct with the owner?  These are all things I've done - in just the last six months.

Between the sirens, crime scene tape, flashing lights, and general calamity of the daily grind we ride, we seek moments.  That 10 or 15 seconds you know you've just captured, and you know that it is pure gold in the eyes of the news gods.  For even the most self indulgent of my breed, it's a ego stroke that will surely carry you through the next scene of claptrap that will surely befall you - but that's not the point.  Not even close.

These moments should affect us in a deeper way.  It should make us better.  It should leave us asking ourselves "what about this can make me better at my job, and more importantly, a better human being?"

Now, the following list of guys will inevitably give me a good ration of crap for this next line, but this particular rant wouldn't be complete without it.  These veteran photographers, these seasoned lenslingers, these guys who have been doing it alot longer than I have, these elder brethren of mine... have somewhat managed to master this fine art of tv news photography, and each in their own way. 

Exhibit A: Leighton Grant

He's the chief photographer at my stations' main competitor, and arguably the best friend I have in Charlotte.  He once asked me a question that continually sticks with me: "When is the last time you cried in your viewfinder?"

The implied lesson being that if it's an emotional story, it should move you.  You should be doing more than just hitting record when you interview a person who has just experienced a great loss.  You should regard them speaking to you as an honor.
Exhibit B: Rick Portier

The self proclaimed "turd polisher" is a guy I haven't ever met personally, but in keeping up with his social media rants and recent vow to only post positive updates, it's obvious that the guy has an unbridled passion for what he does for a living.

So much so that he recently published a 300 page novel entitled "Shooter in the Crosshairs".  It's an awesome read. I highly recommend it.

Exhibit C: Stewart Pittman

When the aptly named "lenslinger" isn't rubbing elbows with the folks from American Idol, transmitting RF around the triad, or tossing back Jack & Coke's with yours truly, he takes a break and writes some of the most insightful photog fodder you've ever laid eyes on

It's an amazing juxtaposition of scathing sarcasm for the business and raw, personal humanity.  It's a true look at how to NOT let the business break you.
Exhibit D:  Richard Adkins

"RAD" as he's known among his peers, has basically been my mentor for the last few years.  His lessons on the business, the daily grind, shooting and editing, and maintaining sanity while navigating the world of TV news have been invaluable and have shaped the way I approach each day at work.

So what do these four camera jockey's have in common?  They have each, and in their own way, contributed to the answer to my aforementioned question: "Why do I do this?"

Through their own work and lives, they've demonstrated that conditioning and patience is key if you're expecting to make it long term in this business.  They've shown this photog that our jobs are coveted for irrational reasons, but that we should never forget why we started pushing glass in the first place: the people.

So why do I do this? I do it because it reminds me that there is life outside my viewfinder, that there is life outside of my own little world.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout out, dude. And the kind words. This business has a way of beating the crap out or, a guy (or gal). Sometimes you just gotta power thru that next assignment. It's those captured moments, and the magic in the edit bay that keep me coming back for more. That and the free food that always seems to find it's way into the newsroom.

    Oh, and the last time I cried behind the viewfinder? When a returning US soldier surprised his daughter in math class.