As the end to another semester comes to a close, I want to reflect on my personal ideals that have driven me into photography and that have influenced me to go back to school to complete my BA. These day my life is split between being a part-time student and a full-time photojournalist.
One of the reason I decided to return to school after a 3 year break was to learn about the world and how it works. In the past, I felt that the most important way to learn about photojournalism was to attend a school with a photo program. Unfortunately, school did not teach me everything I needed to know to be a photographer. All I really learned was basic camera operations and compositional techniques.
These skills are not really worth the tuition of a four-year school. What I was not taught was how to find a subject that would motivate me to want to point my camera in that direction. So that is why I decided to attend a liberal arts school and to study American Studies and History.
Howard Chapnick said in his book "Truth Needs No Ally," that the idea is the "life blood of the photojournalist." After two and half years of being a staff photographer I have realized that this statement is the best piece of advice that I have ever heard on how to succeed in photojournalism. This applies to more then being financially successful as a photojournalist, it also unlocks the secret of sustaining the passion that is needed to stay with this profession.
Without passion low pay combined with the difficulty of advancing in this business would eventually turn most people off. My classes at the University of Mary Washington have awaken me to the effects of government policy on the life of the individuals that live within it borders. The knowledge I have gained is starting to point me to a different focus in my photographic life.
I have written this statement in my cover letters for jobs many times. "My career goals is to work as a photojournalist who concentrates on domestic and international social issues ." The difference now is that I mean it. If for some reason due to my lacking photographic skills or the market, I can't be a photojournalist anymore I will most likely quit.
I cannot see myself working in fashion or wedding photography as many of my peers at my level have turn too. I would prefer to work for a non-profit trying to effect change as a lawyer or social worker. My point is that if my photographic work cannot be in the world of social documentary photojournalism, then I will most likely leave it.