Sunday, October 5, 2014

You don't have to leave home.....

Yesterday, while my wife was attending a writers' workshop at the local arts center, I did my usual roaming around the small downtown square searching for images. As usual, I stopped in at the local used bookstore to see if there was anything new in the photo section. I am always looking for photobooks. Not ones that are about gear or composition but ones that are monographs of a photographer's work. I found two such manuscripts yesterday. One on Edouard Boubat by Bernard George (with a copyright date of 1972 - 42 years old!) and "Photo Op" by David Hume Kennerly.
I started my through Kennerly's monograph first and learned several things about him. One, he is my age. We are both part of the class of 1965 making us 67 years old and approaching our 50th high school reunions next year. He was fortunate to find a path in his photo life much earlier than I as he began working for a daily newspaper shortly after high school and his career went up from there including winning the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography at the ripe old age of 25.
As I made my way through his life as a photojournalist (a word he seems to have problems with), I notice a distinct difference from his thoughts that were centered more on himself and the opportunities he had as he made his way through his photographic life. I began to feel a little unsettled about the writing to go with the images. He seemed almost arrogant or conceited. I had never felt these emotions about another photographer that was my own age and that I should have found inspiring.
As I continued through Kennerly's book, I happened upon an image that suddenly struck a chord with me. It was during the time of Watergate scandal in 1972. By this time, Kennerly had covered the war in Southest Asia and returned to cover politics in Washington, D.C. while I was serving as a sonar technician onboard fast attack nuclear submarines from 1968 to 1976.
The image that caught my eye was one of that showed a young woman holding an "IMPEACH NIXON" placard with two men walking through the frame in the background with a "FELLOW AMERICANS SUPPORT OUR PRESIDENT" sign.
I remembered a similar image that I was to catch three decades later in Seaside, FL, as I was freelancing for a weekly newspaper and fulfilling my dream of being a newspaper photographer. My image also shows two political signs depicting a person's emotions about the current president, George W. Bush, in 2004.

The thought that suddenly came to mind was something that I had happened on when looking for some inspiration. I ran across a book, "Photosynthesis", by Bryan Moss. Moss had worked as a newspaper photographer some 40 years but had traveled a much different path in his career. He worked for numerous papers both large and small even earning a share of two Pulitizer Prize awards.
But it is Moss's approach to photojournalism that is so very different from Kennerly's that appeals to me. His focus is on the so-called "little guy" in our world. I am sure he could have traveled the world looking for the next "big" opportunity but he chose instead to focus on the common man and the importance of covering ordinary people with extraordinary images.
Whenever I feel a little down, I re-read "Photosynthesis" for inspiration.
Where Kennerly's photo of the Watergate signs was shot with the fence surrounding the White House in the background, my shot is just ordinary people in a common resort area of the Florida Panhandle.
But it proves the point that Moss made in his book. You don't have to travel to the ends of the earth to find iconic images. This is one of my "iconic" images". I will never be a famous news shooter such as Kennerly or any of the others that have a desire to be on the front lines of the next conflict. And that is all right. During my ten years supporting that small weekly newspaper, I had images published that some people still have hanging on their walls or posted under a magnet on their refrigerators.
As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting...

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