Thursday, August 30, 2012

Should I go, or shouldn't I?

AP file photo
Newspaper photographers all get them: The phone call, email or letter saying you just HAVE to be at this really cool event. It used to be just phone calls, but with the rise of email marketing my inbox is often flooded with such event announcements.

Some are cool and worth going to, others not. Still others are harder to gauge whether they will offer something photo worthy. Whether I go or not, the invites keep coming. They're often too easy to ignore simply due to their volume, pushing them aside, saying I don't have time this week or I really should be somewhere else.

Malcom Browne was a photojournalist in Vietnam in 1963 when he and many other foreign journalists received a phone call to be at a certain place for a "very important" happening. Unlike his other colleagues, who pushed the cryptic invite aside Browne decided to go, and made the photo above of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc protesting against South Vietnam's U.S.-supported government by dousing himself in aviation fuel and setting himself on fire.

Browne died Monday at the age of 81 after a long career as a photojournalist, much of it with the New York Times. In his 30 years at the Times, I'm sure he received a mountain of phone calls and letters to come see the next cool event. He may have pushed many aside, but I bet he took a chance on many of them, going just to see if an interesting photo could be made. A good lesson for me, I think.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

   The news today of the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, really made me feel my age.
   I know precisely where I was on July 20, 1969, when Armstrong first stepped out of the lunar module: I was sprawled chin-in-hands on the living room floor of my then girlfriend, Nancy Johnson, watching the moment with the rest of her family.
   As a 17-year-old, I naturally had a lot more pressing things to worry about in my world. Nevertheless, the significance of the moment when he uttered the words "one giant leap for mankind" as he took that final step off the lunar module ladder onto the surface of the moon was not lost on me.
   After all, the space race had become headline news when I was a first grader in 1957 as the Russians beat us to the punch by launching Sputnik.
  On that fall evening in October, I can remember gathering outside with others in the neighborhood, hoping to catch a glimpse of it as it passed overhead in the starry sky.
  President John F.Kennedy gave his space race speech in 1961, offering the challenge to get a man to the moon by the end of the decade and the race to get there before the Ruskies was on.
  It was regular headline news in the Weekly Reader that our grade school teachers dutifully passed out to us each week.
  Looking back, it was all kind of amazing, certainly exciting.
  From rockets exploding on the launch pad, to the successful Mercury missions, then Gemini, and finally Apollo, it is remarkable that it took only eight short years to fulfill Kennedy's challenge.
 Truthfully, forays into orbit and near space became so routine that it all became kind of unremarkable.
  Certainly, there were set-backs, even a few tragedies where astronauts died. But the most part, the race to the moon was America's to win and measured mostly by forward progress.
  And the first moon landing was a defining moment for Americans and American technology.
  We, and much of the world, watched from living rooms, from bars, through department store windows, as the poor quality black-and-white video of Armstrong taking those first steps was beamed from the crescent moon a quarter-million miles away.
  It was a remarkable moment, but one that soon became routine as subsequent moon landings followed and even as video quality of astronauts cavorting on the moon _ taken as they golfed or drove a lunar rover _ improved.
  Manned moon exploration ended in 1972 and hardly anyone noticed. And then came the space shuttles which also quickly became routine until January, 1986, when the Challenger disaster reminded us of the peril of nibbling away at the edge of one of the last frontiers.
  In the 1960s, the space race made it easy to find heroes that didn't swing a bat, catch a pass, dribble a basketball.
  Neil Armstrong was one of those heroes.
  The is some truth to that old adage about being as old as you feel.
  And with Armstrong's passing, I, along with that old girlfriend, Nancy Johnson who now happens to be my wife for the last 39 years, just can't help but feel a little bit older at the news.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Photo 8/17/12

Hat and glove, State VFW Baseball Tournament, Mankato.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Has it been that long?

Tri-County Fair, 2002.
A revelation hit me today as I was on my way to my first assignment of the day. I've been shooting pictures for the Mankato Free Press for 10 years, today.

It dawned on me as I was on my way to the Tri-County Fair at the Caledonia Curling Club building (now the Caledonia Community Center, I guess). The Tri-County Fair was the first assignment I shot for the Free Press 10 years ago. I remember being a bit nervous even though I had been a professional shooter for 5 years before that assignment. I just wanted to find a good photo, something that would earn the respect of my new coworkers and bosses.

I'd love to say I found a photo that blew everyone's socks off. Something that made everyone gather around my monitor expounding with "Ooos" and "Ahhhs," but it didn't happen. I was happy with the photo, don't get me wrong. I felt it was something worth putting my name under. It had a good moment between a young 4-Her and his cow as he waited to be judged.

This year's Tri-County Fair photo.

It was the start of something I didn't think would last this long. The start of finding a place I could call home. A place where I could get comfortable, get to know well and tell the stories of the people that live here. A place where the familiarity of 10 years living in a place would help bring trust, friendship, and good pictures.

I've taken thousands of photos for The Free Press since then, many of them better than the one I shot that day. But that one will always stick out for me, just because it was the first.

I remember it being a good first week at The Free Press. I made pictures I was happy with that week and started friendships with coworkers that have lasted 10 years, and hopefully will last many more. The Tri-County Fair started a 10-year exploration of southern Minnesota I hope continues for a long time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday photo 8/10/12

Near miss, VFW State Tournament, Mankato, Minn.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Photo 8-3-12

Autograph seekers, Minnesota Vikings training camp, Mankato.