The Beginning.
+ I'm a Warwick, N.Y. - based photojournalist with 48 years of experience, most recently as Director of Photography at the Times Herald-Record and currently writer and photographer of the 845LIFE column which appears every Monday in the TH-R.
+ I trained under LIFE Magazine photographer Bernard Hoffman in the early 1970's and began my newspaper career in in 1972 in Toms River, N.J., covering 6-7 assignments a day and making prints in a crappy darkroom with one hand, while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the other. (Yeah, I'm a proud boomer.)
+ That was when newspapers were black-and-white and Tri-X film was king. You couldn't push that stuff very far - ASA 800 was the max - but it was all we had. The other press photographers were crusty 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, I've worked for newspapers in seven states including one of the smallest in New Mexico and one of the largest in Manhattan. I've photographed U.S. presidents, college, pro and high school sports, famous musicians, boring politicians, the rich and famous and the poor and not so famous. (I prefer the poor and not so famous.)
The Middle.
+ If it matters to you, my work has won hundreds of awards, been published around the world and can be seen every week in the TH-R and every other month in Orange Magazine. My pix have been turned into two books: "The People of Vietnam" and "N Y C" and two soon-to-be published books, "Twischsawkin" and "Kaaterskill."
+ 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 wrote "youth is wasted on the young" or something to that effect.
+ Because, with photography, knowledge is cumulative and software offers few shortcuts. Photojournalists think up ideas, are experts in natural and artificial lighting, know their own capabilities and the limitations of their equipment, know the legal stuff, work very quickly, nail the shot in camera and then get the hell out. (Didn't Ringo sing "It Don't Come Easy?")
+ Intelligent photojournalists need to have a great sense of humor, an outgoing personality and know a little bit about a lot of different things. Because sometimes the job requires melting into a crowd and at other times it requires keeping the subject engaged through the lost art of conversation. (Which is why you need to know a little bit about a lot.)
The End.
+ Decades ago, Bernard Hoffman gave me great advice when he said "Everybody thinks photography is about equipment and it's not. When you point a camera at someone it might as well be a gun - they freeze. Good photographers have the ability to make the person feel comfortable and bad photographers don't do that. It's about people, not 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. Pictures of people smiling at the camera can't do that. Producing great photographs on demand is a talent and skill which used to lead to a lucrative career. Did for me. Doesn't anymore.
+ Cameras are a tool but here's the disconnect: I was photographing a musician and when she saw my images she said: "Those are amazing, you must have a great camera" and me, completely annoyed, replied "You make fantastic music, you must have a great violin."
+ 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. Now, I'm the cranky old photographer giving advice to young shooters - some of it actually good - but darkrooms are a thing of the past so there's no place to hide the rum.
Down the Rabbit Hole with a Boomer.
+ When I lecture, I always start by saying that the most important piece of equipment a photographer carries is a brain. Because making ideas appear on a tiny chip inside the camera is the talent and, quite obviously, the skill behind what photojournalists do.
+ I've read that young people will take 25,000 selfies in their lifetimes. But in our highly-filtered social media culture, they rarely seek to show themselves honestly, but rather as they wish they were, preening in front of smartphones, essentially faking their own lives. That's just weird.
+ As a result, photography is spinning off into many directions - some of it actually good - but you'll never find me shooting a young child in angel wings or a baby in a pea-pod suit. That's just fucking weird.
+ Humanity's greatest inventions: 1) Air conditioning, because 100 years ago it changed the American workplace and eventually led to... 2) Television. 3) Computers.
+ Mankind's worst inventions: 1) Religion. 2) Bagpipes. 3) Baby strollers - all for obvious reasons - although I'm beginning to think smartphones belong on this list, too.
+ Greatest American actor: Tom Hanks, because he makes you forget he's Tom Hanks. Greatest American actress: Meryl Streep - same reason. While we're on the subject, old-time acting, like Humphrey Bogart or Spencer Tracy, is just too stiff and wooden to enjoy.
+ Greatest rock and roll band: I'm gonna take the Rolling Stones over the Beatles but only because they've been around so much longer. I'm really not much of a Stones fan.
+ The greatest line in pop culture music history was delivered by The Marvelettes, in 1961, when they sang: "de-liver de-letter, de-sooner, de-better," in the song "Please, Mr. Postman." I'm pretty sure they didn't write it - few groups did in back then - but that's just lyrical genius.
+ A law enforcement acquaintance tells me there are very few home burglaries these days. It's much easier for criminals to sit at home in their pajamas and steal your money online or drive down the street and pilfer Amazon boxes off your front porch.
+ If you think dogs are members of the animal kingdom then you have no problem keeping them on a leash. However, if you see them as furry little humans, you would never do that. (But, if you see 'em as furry little humans, it's probably time to have babies of your own.)
+ I don't think Native Americans bothered to rake the leaves.
+ You don't get to roll your own when it comes to spelling: The color is gray, not grey. It's judgment, not judgement. It's flotation, not floatation and you need to know the difference between they're, their and there and your and you're otherwise you just look plane stupid. (Testing you there.)
+ Similarly, state postal abbreviations are for shipping purposes only. So, if you're sending mail to Nebraska you use NE but if you're writing about the state it's Neb. and the same goes for Calif., Ariz., Mich. Miss., Mich., and most others. Only N.H., N.C., S.C., N.D., S.D., N.J., N.Y., N.M., use initials - all with periods attached - and the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are not abbreviated at all. (You're welcome.)
+ In my opinion, the quickest way to fix online commenting: Make it so bad spelling or bad grammar posts won't upload. That would eliminate 99 percent of the internet trolls.
+ Freedom of speech is between the government and you and has nothing to do with the internet. You can stand on the corner and scream about how stupid your boss is and you'd be perfectly within your rights. But if your boss fires you, he's perfectly within his rights, too.
+ In fact, why anyone owns a Twitter account is beyond comprehension since posts regularly come back to bite people in the butt. Actually, most online commenting is dumb. Viral videos? Dumber. Gender reveals? Dumbest.
+ Social media was supposed to bring the world together and instead it has driven everyone apart. Except for the cute cat videos - those are just awful in any language.
+ Today, businesses create websites first, print business cards second and obtain talent, experience and expertise last which is the exact opposite of the way it's supposed to work. Fake-it until you make-it is out of control.
+ The worst thing the internet did was create keyboard tough guys which has led directly to the rise of whackos, flat-earthers and conspiracy theorists. (You're welcome.)
+ Putting on a uniform doesn't make someone a hero: You actually have to save a person's ass to be termed a hero. Real-life, heroically heroic deeds are losing importance in society because the term is being thrown around like rice at a wedding. Recently, Keanu Reeves was hailed "a hero" on a TV show for dating someone his own age. (Get a grip.)
+ In that vein: "Save one person's life and you're a hero. Save 100 lives and you're a nurse." Full disclosure: My wife is a nurse.
+ Shouldn't car manufacturers install devices that jam cellular signals? Would it interfere with other passenger's cellphones? Great! Hamper online driving directions? Better!
+ Doesn't it feel like people are using too many ! ! ! these days? You can accurately guess a person's age by how many exclamation points they use. Truthfully, one will suffice and it isn't necessary to use more than one at the end of every sentence!
+ So why is 50 degrees in July is considered cold while 50 degrees in January is thought to be hot? (Why? Why? Why?) It's all a matter of perception.
+ There was a time in my life when I was capable of turning on the family television but those days are long gone. The kids don't even create a funny-face profile for me anymore.
+ Drinking IPA beer is like guzzling gasoline. But there are too many places selling this crap and too many people drinking this crap for it to go away anytime soon. But we can dream.
+ The start-up disaster continues as CEO's make off with millions, sometimes billions, and bankruptcy leaves investors and employees holding the bag. The problem is that old-school banks want to be part of the new-school tech world and they loan money out the wazoo - until the scheme falls apart - and everybody loses except the newly-enriched CEO.
+ People ask why newspapers charge to view their online content. That's because, just like you, reporters, editors and photographers like to eat. Facebook is free, you say? Yeah, well, you get what you pay for.
+ Now, get off my lawn.

Inspiration.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain


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Copyright: John DeSanto, 1971-2020

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