"Democracy will not survive the Internet." - Me.
+ I'm a Warwick, N.Y. - based photojournalist with 50 years of experience, most recently as Director of Photography at the Times Herald-Record and long-time author, photographer, producer and editor of the 845LIFE column. Now retired.
+ Long ago and far away, I trained under LIFE Magazine photographer Bernard Hoffman and began my newspaper career in 1972, shooting 6-7 assignments a day, souping prints in a crappy darkroom while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Yup, I'm a Boomer.
+ That was when newspapers were black-and-white and Tri-X film was king. The other press photographers were grumpy old men who smoked too much, hid bottles of rum in the darkroom and grudgingly gave up secrets. I listened, learned and tried not to inhale.
+ Since then my full-time career has been creating photographs for newspapers in seven states including one of the smallest in New Mexico and one of the largest in New York City. I've shot U.S. presidents, high school, college and pro sports, famous musicians, boring politicians, the rich and famous and the poor and not-so-famous. I much prefer the latter.
+ If it matters to you, my work has won hundreds of awards, has been published around the world and can be seen every week in the TH-R and every other month in Orange Magazine. I've published four coffee-table sized photography books with one more ready to drop.
+ Once I thought I knew everything about photography when I was 30... and 40... and 50... and it turns out I didn't and I still don't. Which is probably why George Bernard Shaw once wrote “youth is wasted on the young” or something to that effect.
+ Because with photography, knowledge is cumulative and software offers few shortcuts. Photographers need to have great imaginations, need to be experts in natural and artificial lighting, need to know their own capabilities and limitations of their equipment and then need to nail the shot quickly and get the hell out. (Didn't Ringo sing “It Don't Come Easy?”)
+ Photojournalists also need a great sense of humor, a vibrant personality and need to know a little bit about a lot - because at times the job requires melting away and at other times it requires keeping subjects engaged through the lost art of conversation. Software, you may have noticed, doesn't help with any of that stuff.
+ Every photographer has their own style, so when I transitioned from film to digital in 2001, I kept in mind that composition is much more important than color and I still shoot that way: High-contrast, bold images with strong lines just like in the old black and white days.
+ Decades ago, Bernard Hoffman gave me great advice when he said “Everybody thinks photography is about equipment - it's not. When you point a camera at someone it might as well be a gun - they freeze. Good photographers make the subject forget about that gun and bad photographers don't. It's about having a personality, not having equipment.”
+ Great photographs smack you right in the face and change your perception of the world. They capture emotion and take you to places you've never been. Which is why selfies are so awful - they reveal nothing. There are people preening and playing pretend in front of their smartphones, essentially faking their own lives. (Using tiny plastic lenses, I might add.)
+ So, George Bernard Shaw was definitely correct, Bernard Hoffman was probably correct and Ringo? Well, he's Ringo and he gets to sing whatever the hell he wants to sing.
+ You see, cameras are just tools, like a hammer or a scalpel. Professional usage requires professional experience. I get it: Technology has turned everyone into a make-believe photographer these days. I suppose I should be flattered, but I'm not. Because when everyone is a photographer - then nobody is a photographer. (Same with online “experts.”)
+ Here's the disconnect: I was shooting a violinist and when she saw my photos she said: “Those are amazing, you must have a great camera” and me, completely annoyed, replied “You make fantastic music, so you must have a great violin.” She, of course, was offended. (But that's how it works these days: Everyone is offended by everything.)
+ Moral of the story: There are so many pretend photographers scamming people that it's criminal - or it should be. Photography has ceased to be art and has become a commodity. It's a race to the bottom with the cheapest winning. The only thing that got disrupted were good photographs for clients. (Excessive lens flare, anyone?)
1) It's not the camera, it's who is behind the camera.
1) It's not the camera, it's who is behind the camera.
2) Personality and experience are far more important than software.
3) Social media is world famous for making bad situations worse.
4) You will always know more next week than you know this week. (Well, hopefully.)
5) Watching online videos and then pretending to be educated is not cool - in any field.
6) Freelance is just another word for unemployed.
7) The best compliment one photographer can give another is: "I wish I took that shot."
8) The dollar sign goes in front of the number - $79, NOT 79$ - and, sorry, you don't get to make up your own grammar rules.
9) The most misspelled words in the English language: judgment, flotation, flue and gray. Literally, the most overused, and misused, word is literally.
10) No, I won't fix it in PhotoShop.
11) The revolution will not be televised, mostly because there is no profit to be made. (Thanks, Gil Scott-Heron.)
12) The future just ain't what it used to be.
Yup, I'm a Boomer.