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.

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