Every once in awhile, I’m offered a news assignment from the New York Times. It’s always a thrill! I love going back to my photojournalism roots every now and then. It’s a reminder of my past life: the daily deadlines, the hustling to make a good photo, working with awesome writers and editors, getting an intimate peek into the lives of people I would otherwise never meet; it’s an honor and sometimes (depending on the story), fun.
So this first assignment was not at all “fun”. But it was SUCH an honor to be a part of this powerful project.
Just after the Boston Marathon bombings last year, I was tapped by the New York Times to make a portrait of an Austin woman who had been standing a few feet from the first bomb that exploded.
NYT editor Becky Hanger and her team had a brilliant idea for a powerful multimedia feature on the NYT website. It was based on a photo that was circulating at the time; a frame grab from the NBC broadcast of the race. The NYT put a call out over social media and asked people to identify themselves and other people who appear in this photo. Editors then tracked down as many of these people as they could to interview them about their memory of that historic and tragic moment.
Austinite Katie Carmona was one of these people. Her story is terrifying and fascinating. She was standing SO CLOSE to the first bomb that exploded – barely 10 feet away. The amazing thing is that even though she was just a few feet away, the bomb exploded directionally – in the opposite direction – leaving her relatively unscathed. I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Carmona and recording the audio for her interview. You can see and hear this incredible feature here.
When big news stories like this one break, I have to admit my heart still skips a beat as I think about my former colleagues – newspaper photographers and freelance photojournalists around the country – springing into action. Documenting history, scrambling to the scene, finding the story underneath the story – that’s the daily life of a journalist.
A couple of weeks ago, I shot a much lighter story for the New York Times.
Any NBA fans out there? Last month the Philadelphia 76ers were on an epic losing streak. They were about to break the NBA record for most games lost, and legendary sports writer Jere Longman was writing an in-depth story about 76ers players, and their state of mind. To illustrate the article, the Times sent me to San Antonio to photograph them practicing at the San Antonio Spurs practice facility. You can find the online version of this article here.
Instead of standard “sports action” images, my NYT editor was looking for something more imbued with feeling. I got a few minutes at the end of their practice (you always wish you had more time!) and made a few quick frames of Coach Brett Brown, Guard Casper Ware, Forward Thaddeus Young and James Anderson – among others – joking around and generally having a good time. The guys looked more relaxed than frustrated.
I enjoyed the challenge of having to work quickly and capture as many “decisive moments” as I could to visually tell the story of this beleaguered team.
Being a photographer outside of the wedding world keeps me sharp and on my toes! It’s also an excellent reminder that what I do now is not that different from my career as a photojournalist. I’m still telling stories with my camera, still capturing moments and emotions. Journalists document history – and so do wedding photographers. It’s a much more private, personal kind of history. Your photos will be seen by the most important people on earth: your family, friends — and people you love who you haven’t even met yet (your grandchildren).
These days I document the history of families. And happily I can say that for me, this is the most gratifying work I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.
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