Awe, the life of a news photographer. It's exciting — and boring; dangerous — and repetitive; happy times — and heart breaking at times. It's recording life — and death — for real. It's an art and it's a job. But mostly it's always observing, never participating.
And that is why I left it all behind a few years back. I became so detached from events by hiding behind a camera that even on my days off and at our own family events I could not bring myself to become involved in the activities. And now, for some dumb reason, I'm considering getting back into the biz and I'm not even sure why. I'm not even sure I still have the passion or the eye to be a photojournalist ...
... But once upon a time, my photos appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country. Chances are, if you looked at a newspaper or magazine in the 1990s you may have seen one of my photographs. More particular, a newspaper in the larger cities, such as Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Dallas, Miami or even USA Today. Floods, fires, murders and even two-headed snakes where my subjects. I specialized in disasters, but preferred fun, slice of life photos. But newspapers love disaster and that's what they assigned.
Below are just a few of my favorite photos I took over the years. These all have stories behind them. Some I make comments on, some speak for themselves. Some of my best photos, however, I no longer have copies of. They live only in my memories and in some morgue of some newspaper. Anyhow, here are the photos. These are actually photos of the photos — taken with a simple point-n-shoot — so the sharpness doesn't reflect the original images.
The cop warned us, however, that it could be a trap and that the subject might detonate "the bomb" once the media was outside the house. But we excitedly raced down to the house, lined up behind a rope strung out by the cops just outside the house and had our cameras cocked and ready. The TV guys turned on their camera lights to light up the scene. It was surreal to say the least.
The cops were all tucked in behind their riot shields and all of us journalists were standing there hiding behind our cameras. A hundred guns and 10 or so cameras all pointed at the little house in what was a quiet neighborhood just a few hours earlier.
We waited. Nothing. Minutes went by. One of the TV guys lost his nerve and decided to leave. We all chuckled as he ran off, but in reality he probably had more nerve (and a lot more common sense) than we did. Finally, the cop in charge used a megaphone and called out that the media was present. Nothing. We waited. And waited. The door opened and the woman, caring the child, ran out of the house. CLICK, CLICK CLICK ... the cameras fired. The cops tackled her and the kid and dragged them off to safety.
A few minutes passed but it seemed like an hour. The sun was starting to rise. I remember I was shaking so much I could hardly see through the camera. To this day I'm still not sure if it was from the cold or from nerves.
Then the door opened and the man stepped out onto the porch. The cameras fired again ... CLICK, CLICK CLICK ... the cameras' motor drives whined. He was holding something in one hand and a shotgun in the other. The police screamed at him to drop everything. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK ... He obeyed. They told him to get on the ground. He did. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. Several cops ran over, jumped on him, hand-cuffed him, stood him up and led him away. CLICK, CLICK CLICK! And just like that, it was over.
After more than 16 hours of standing around, freezing, sleepy and hungry, we had gotten our shot. No bomb was found. We congratulated ourselves on job well done, but secretly knowing it could have gone bad real fast.
I had heard the call on my police scanner about a man with a rifle pointing it at passersby and possibly may be suicidal. I was in the area already so I headed to the state park where he was reported to be. I turned into the state park and smack in front of me was the dude sitting in his pick-up truck.
The only thing I could do was to keep driving and hope he didn't shoot. So I drove right past him and on into the park. After parking my car out of his sight I hiked back up to where I could see him from behind. I snapped off a couple of shots but then a park ranger came up and ordered me, along with everyone in the park to leave. Since the only way in or out was where the sniper was, we all had to leave our vehicles and hike out over a mountain to avoid possibly being shot. But at least I got photos from an angle that no other photog did. Sometimes my stupidity (and my luck) astounds me.
So why do I want to get back into photojournalism? Being able to create an image that moves people. That brings out an emotion — laughter, tears, shock, or concern. Or to just brighten someones day with a warm fuzzy slice of life photo. That's an awesome feeling. I guess that might be one reason. Maybe I'm just an adrenaline junkie. Or, maybe, I'm just plain nuts ...