These guys were the Indiana University professors and student teachers that I had the extreme pleasure of spending two weeks with while at the IU journalism institute for high school yearbook staff back in 1979. Their names escape me. Never saw any of them after those two very intense and thrilling weeks. These guys seemed larger than life.
Photographing civil rights battles during the sixties and documenting the injustices that were unfolding just a few feet from their lens made quite an impression on 15 year old me. They impressed me not just with their combined portfolios – but also with their love of the craft and strict adherence to the ideals of image making. “We don’t TAKE pictures, we MAKE Photographs”. Whether you “photoshop” your images, dodge and burn them or manipulate them through the very basic lens choice and camera settings… make no mistake about the fact that images are MADE. They aren’t just taken.
“The photographer is responsible for everything in the frame” was one of the key lessons I remember. Don’t get fixated on your subject and forget to study the background, light, color harmony as well. Crop and compose in camera.
Back then I had the heady ambition of being a photographer for Life or National Geographic and rubbing elbows with some of THOSE guys… Eugene Smith, Steve McCurry, Michael Nichols. Changing the world with my lens as these guys had.
My ambition today is the same but different. I have had the pleasure of learning plenty from some of those guys but the elbow rubbing has been with a group of ‘togs much closer to home albeit every bit as talented. However we’re not traveling the world documenting wars and refugees.
Much closer to home, we’re creating the visual tapestry that countless families will soon identify with more than their actual memories. And when a mom gets teary eyed seeing her baby reach yet another milestone, growing up way to fast through my lens… Sometimes that is changing the world just enough.
I’m grateful to the many mentors I’ve had over the years and hope to do my best to pay it forward. Are YOU ready?