+ 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.
+ 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 all black-and-white and Tri-X 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, I've worked for newspapers in seven states including one of the smallest in New Mexico and one of the largest in New York City. I've photographed 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 poor and not-so-famous.
+ 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 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 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 in the camera and get the hell out. (Didn't Ringo sing “It Don't Come Easy?”)
+ Documentary photojournalists need to have a sense of humor, an outgoing personality and need to know a little bit about a lot of different things because at times the job requires melting away and at other times it requires keeping the subject 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 the idea that composition is more important than color and I'm still shooting that way: High contrast, bold images with strong angles, just like in the black and white days of Tri-X.
+ 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 the 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 exactly why selfies are so awful - they reveal nothing. There is an entire generation walking around with smartphones, preening and playing make-believe and faking their own lives. It's stoopid.
+ Cameras are tools, but here's the disconnect: I was shooting a musician and when she saw my shots 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.”
+ So, George Bernard Shaw was definitely correct, Bernard Hoffman was probably correct and Ringo... well, he's Ringo Starr and he gets to sing whatever the hell he wants to sing. Now, I'm the grumpy old guy but, thanks to Adobe, there is no place to hide the rum.