Articles Archive for April 2009
I had the prestigious honor of shooting the La Jolla Half Marathon – 13.1 miles of rolling seaside hills and beach pathways winding through Del Mar and La Jolla – from the back of the press truck. See the online version at the La Jolla Light website.
The reason most Americans follow Jesus is that most people haven’t heard of John Harrington. If you are a burgeoning freelance photographer and you haven’t read his book yet, let me urge you to find the difference between your ass and your elbow.
I started my journalism career as a writer, and, like Martha Gellhorn bemoaned, always felt as if the “bloody words would not walk straight.” I constantly have to read my writing out loud and even then Serena has some serious editing to do if I want a nice flow and rhythm to my piece. My tendency to write awkwardly, however, is not enough to stop me from trying to make my words walk straight.
I subscribe to the NYCWriters mailing list and while it’s mainly garbage and self promotion, occasionally there are leads. The editor from City Scoops, a small magazine published in NYC, e-mailed the listserv asking for pitches for their June/July issue. The magazine is free with a circulation of 600,000 and with writing that I match on my good days. So, with my fingers cross and pitch edited again and again, I sent this to the editor:
Madonna’s recent injury inspired me to look into horseback riding options in the city. There are actually quite a few of choices and I think a story breaking down the different places and stables to go would be a very timely summer piece. Also, I want to write about acai bowls, a Brazilian dish that are ubiquitous in California but are only now starting to show up in South American restaurants in the city. Here is a stub about it to give you an idea of the dish. It is also a very summery fare and would be relevant for a June issue. In terms of my writing experience, some of my published writing samples can be found here. I am also a working photographer and if there are any photos needed for stories, I would be more than willing to work on something like that as well. Let me know if you have any questions.
Short, sweet, succinct, and a Madonna mention. All necessary ingredients for a successful pitch, right? Yes, actually, apparently it is. Larry wrote back immediately. asking for a writing resume. Writing resume? Yeh, sure. I’ll get right on that. Consulting a fellow journalist and google, I string together a list in a general resume format of places I’ve written (this blog included) and send it on.
Not getting a response as quickly as the last and certain it’s due to my weak references, I despaired and followed up, baring my soul.
I realize my writing resume is a bit on the slim side but I would like to campaign for the chance to write these articles. I have been working as a photographer but started my journalism career as a writer and am still very much capable of crafting fine pieces. If you are still unsure, I would be more than willing to send my pieces at an earlier deadline or any other safeguard you would need to abate any misgivings.
That was five days ago, a lifetime in the publishing world. Today, however, I get a response saying he has accepted my horseback riding pitch! Hurray! This just reaffirms my belief in following up relentlessly and using interesting ideas to get you in the door. And, of course, name dropping Madonna.
I started my journalism career as a writer, and, like Martha Gellhorn bemoaned, always felt as if the “bloody words would not walk straight.” I constantly have to read my…
The San Diego News Network just published a photo of mine for an article about the Employee Free Choice Act–a federal bill that would ease the process of union organizing. See the story here.
I wish I could say I got paid for this photo, but in fact, I donated it. Don’t get me wrong; I did try to pitch a few photos to the political editor at SDNN after hearing from my old boss at Service Employees International Union Local 221 that she was working on this story, but the editor informed me that SDNN doesn’t have a budget for photos. When I got her email response, I was torn; I had a good photo about a polarizing national issue that I could have pitched elsewhere. But I also emphathize with SDNN, which is trying to do a service for San Diego on a low budget. The photo was set at the Cesar Chavez Day “Journey for Better Jobs” march last month in San Diego so I thought, what better place for the photo than an article about the Employee Free Choice Act in a San Diego publication? I decided I’d donate the photo as long as my name was published on the site. What can I say, I’m a pushover.
I should note that I was a bit dissapointed with this article. I have a special attachment to the Employee Free Choice Act because I worked for an SEIU campaign called “Change that Works” which is currently fighting to pass the bill as well as healthcare reform. Needless to say, I learned a lot about the process of labor organizing, and I don’t think the SDNN article accurately described what the bill would do. Basically the Employee Free Choice Act would make three changes to current labor law: 1.) give all workers the opportunity to form unions through majority sign up 2.) guarantee a contract by allowing arbitration to take place if workers don’t acquire a contract after three months and 3.) stiffen penalties against bosses who illegally threaten, harrass or fire workers.
Right now, all American workers have the opportunity to join labor unions in theory, but the reality is that many employees are unable to form unions due to harrassment, intimidation or illegal firings. In other words, corporate bosses don’t want to share any of their profits with the workers who help create it so they’ll do anything to block a union from entering the worksite. I have personally met five people who have been fired for trying to organize their workplace. This is against the law, yet it happens in 25 percent of all organizing drives. The Nation published a more comprehensive article on the subject back in January. Hmm, maybe I’ll try to freelance my own piece about the bill. What do you say?
The San Diego News Network just published a photo of mine for an article about the Employee Free Choice Act–a federal bill that would ease the process of union organizing….
Wow, I’ve already shot too many fashion shows. Perusing a blog that a fashionista friend sent I stumbled upon THE INSIDER: IEKELIENE STANGE, an article about a model who is also a photographer and just got her first show.
What really grabbed my attention was this:
What comes next from here? I want to get into more photojournalism. My biggest inspiration is those old-school Magnum photographers, where they were just really passionate about it. I think that’s what I aspire to do.
Way to blow any preconceived notion about models right out of the water, eh? From the couple of photos that are up on her website, I can’t really get a sense of her work but I would definitely be interested in seeing more. Which, actually, strangely enough, might be possible. I went into my work archives and found this photo I took during fashion week:
Holding her Canon Rebel and everything, how cute. Now I totally want to chit chat with her next fashion week. I’ve been dwelling on the idea of doing something else to support myself so I only do exactly the type of photography that I want to do. I hate dreading to take photos, which is exactly what I feel before going to a lot of the events I end up working. I have, however, learned more than I thought existed about photography and sometimes leave work feeling like I should be paying tuition. While I don’t see the modeling world as a possible solution (Unless I miraculously grow another two inches and drop 20 pounds), I want to hear her thoughts on Capa and the bunch and only doing do photography for the love of it.
Wow, I’ve already shot too many fashion shows. Perusing a blog that a fashionista friend sent I stumbled upon THE INSIDER: IEKELIENE STANGE, an article about a model who is…
I’m Doug. I’m a Photojournalist with a CBS affiliate in Florida, trying to branch out into documentary/educational territory. For my Freshman effort, I present to you:
Fun with Photons: Episode 1-In a pinch…
So I was doing a routine “Satellite Center” shot all morning today. That’s where we set up in master control (where they switch between local and network programming) and *.reporter talks about *.the lead from last night.
Simple shot, controlled environment.
…unless you have the palsy.
—Somehow I slept on a 9v battery a couple weeks ago, and I suffered radial nerve palsy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrist_drop)—
So in my limp-wristed state, I apparently wasn’t able to tighten the lock on one of my light stands enough. 90sec out from a live shot,
80sec.- No back/hair light, no extra bulb.
70- Run to the other side of the room, steal the operator’s chair. Stand on it.
60- Struggle on tippy-toes, on a rolling chair, to reach the track lighting above the switcher.
45- Get the light pointed roughly at *.reporter‘s head. Leap from chair.
40- Get back to camera. Realize track light is considerably weaker than the backlight that popped.
35- Adjust key light, pulling further away from subject. Take a guess on appropriate distance/brightness, no time to double-check in viewfinder.
25- Back to camera. Slam iris to full open, engage shutter option(1/250). Hope the shallower DOF will make up some of the separation lost with a weaker backlight.
15- STAND BY- Zoom in, re-focus because the backfocus on the camera will never stay set.
10- Re-compose shot, because *.reporter got flustered when I jumped on the chair and wasn’t in the right spot any more. Damn, you can see the program monitor over her shoulder! The whole shot will look like one of those hallways of mirros that create endless reflected subjects!
5- Kick/slide tripod about 5-7in to the right, which tucks said monitor back into its place, BEHIND the reporter. Re-re-compose shot.
ON AIR. Clean.
I’m Doug. I’m a Photojournalist with a CBS affiliate in Florida, trying to branch out into documentary/educational territory. For my Freshman effort, I present to you: Fun with Photons: Episode…
A few weeks ago, I pitched my very first freelance article idea. Well, not my first idea, but the first idea I actually thought had a shot at getting published. It centers on an orphanage in Tijuana that Jackie and I were introduced to over a year ago. Picture a huge, colorful two-story hostel, with 100 children filling the rooms instead of international travelers. The kids are well dressed and happy; you would never guess that most were born to prostitutes and drug addicts who left them to fend for themselves in broken homes or on the streets. The orphanage directors, Connie and Tyler Youngkin, seek kids from the worst backgrounds to live at Los Ninos de la Promesa, aka “The Purple Palace,” which provides food, shelter and paid education. Jackie and I were intrigued by the place from day one, and the more the Tijuana drug war took the spotlight in the news, the more relevant the story became.
A one-day Mediabistro.com course titled “Breaking into Freelancing” was helpful in teaching me how to construct my pitch letter. The seminar’s instructor and well known freelance journalist, Vince Beiser, stressed the importance of linking an idea to current events and giving it a catchy headline and lead, like a miniature version of the real story. He also emphasized establishing a relationship with the editor up front and conveying why you are the best person to write the story, as I attempted to do in my letter to the San Diego Citybeat below:
“Dear Editor Rolland,
I have been in touch with Anders Wright through our mutual editor at the @UCSD Alumni Magazine and he suggested that I contact you about the following feature article idea:
A BRIGHTER SIDE OF TIJUANA–There’s something curious happening in Tijuana’s “Red Light District” besides the sale of sex and drugs. Kids laugh, sing and play soccer; guitar chords and piano keys sound; young students are doing homework, playing computer games and studying the bible. It’s all happening behind the lavender walls of Los Niños de la Promesa (The Children of Promise), an American-run orphanage where neglected children are cared for just blocks from the crumbling, graffiti-ridden streets of La Zona Norte.
Nicknamed “The Purple Palace,” the orphanage houses nearly 100 children ages one to 19. The majority are not orphans at all, but rather the children of prostitutes, drug addicts and beggars. These kids used to roam the streets all night inhaling glue, getting in fights, lighting drunkards on fire and selling little girls to pedophiles. That is, until they were pulled from the streets and their poverty-stricken realities by Poway natives Connie and Tyler Youngkin, founders of Los Ninos de la Promesa.
Examining the unending cycle of drugs and violence in Tijuana through the prism of these children would make for a very compelling story. Born into an environment of crime and deprivation, these kids have now found shelter at the Purple Palace. However, drugs, violence and crime still infiltrate their lives (even the building they live in may be owned by the Columbian mafia.) This article is not only relevant amid the explosive spike in drug violence, but it’s also original because it shines a light on the positive side of the story — efforts to alleviate crime by getting children off the streets and into an environment that instills faith and confidence and ultimately gives children options.
The story is also fascinating because Christian Americans perform much of the child protective services in the area. Do Mexican citizens like these Americans stepping in to solve their problems? It’s even more intriguing because founder Connie Youngkin used to be an infamous pro-life activist in San Diego before working with orphans in Tijuana. She served several stints in jail for her involvement with Operation Rescue and was even sued by the physicians she regularly harassed — allegedly spurring her to sell all her possessions and focus her efforts south of the border. While her picketing days may be over, her pro-life efforts continue and now she takes care of 100 neglected kids, doing her small part to prove there are no unwanted children.
I’m a freelance writer here in San Diego and I have experience writing about Tijuana and Mexico. I have won three California College Media Association Awards in the categories of best news/feature article and best news series. I already have a good relationship with Connie and Tyler Youngkin and Fransalia, a former drug-addicted prostitute who now works as the orphanage director, where her position has allowed her to reunite with the four kids she had given up. I have also become very well acquainted with many of the children and teenagers over the past year. I am proficient in interviewing in Spanish and I have contacts from other orphanages, ministry groups, a teenage drug rehab program and Tijuana Social Services. I would be happy to discuss this idea with you further at your convenience.
Thank you very much for your time. Article clips can be found at the links below. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
In addition to the San Diego Citybeat, I tweaked the pitch letter for the Los Angeles Citybeat, which a friend told me was planning to run a Tijuana issue. I also tried Good, Ode and Yes! on the national front because of their dedication to humanitarian causes. (Mediabistro.com has a helpful “How to Pitch” guide for many magazines, including Good and Ode).
About a month has gone by with no response — even after phone and email follow-up attempts — dampening my hopes a bit, but so goes the life of an amateur freelance journalist, caught in the viscious cycle of having no real professional clips. To top things off, the April 2 issue of the San Diego Reader published a lengthy cover story about life in Tijuana amid the current drug violence, diminishing my chances of getting published in San Diego any time in the foreseeable future!
I solicited Vince Beiser for pitching advice, who responded a few days after I sent the pitches out with some good recommendations …
Well, that was not entirely what I expected. First, it wasn’t Magnum photographers as the surprise guests. It was James Nachtwey and Steve McCurry, a Seven AND Magnum photographer. Also probably two of the most famous (if not THE most famous) living documentary photographers. Nachtwey won a Ted Award to document XDR-TB, a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, and had his photos premiere live in New York, Rio, London, Sydney, Hong Kong and ANTARCTICA, among other places. McCurry is most famous for the Afghan Girl, although all his stuff is pretty amazing.
Anyway, I digress. I walked in and had David Alan Harvey greet me within two minutes and–can I get an amen?–offer me a beer. The loft ends up being in the “Photographer Building,” aptly named since at least 40 photographers live and work there and has been that way since before the neighborhood became trendy and totally unaffordable. The rooftop view (my photo above) has an amazing vista of the city and is enough of a reason itself to go back.
After everyone had imbibed to their satisfaction, we settled down to watch slide shows by his students from his weekend workshop as well as some of the work by party attendees. There were some stand out and lovely essays considering they only had three days to shoot, edit and put their work together, making me feel like a slacker for not shooting anything nearly as exciting lately. David also showed After the Storm, probably my favorite photo essay on burn to date. This is about the time he announces that Nawtchey and McCurry are on their way and we will have to watch the essays again. This is also about the time I get so excited I feel like a puppy shaking from her tail wagging so hard.
After the guests of honor arrive, he showed these slides again and asked if anyone else had any slide shows with them ready to go. Are you kidding me? Do you mean to tell me if I had been prepared DAVID ALAN HARVEY, JAMES NACHTWEY AND STEVE MCCURRY would be looking at my work? I thought of racing the 13 blocks home but David gave me his card and told me since I’m a neighbor, I should come by sometime with my work. And this, my friends, is exactly why I go to events. Opportunities, pretty photos and free beer.
sorry for the mess.
Well, that was not entirely what I expected. First, it wasn’t Magnum photographers as the surprise guests. It was James Nachtwey and Steve McCurry, a Seven AND Magnum photographer. Also…
One ideal that I strive for (but seldom achieve) is to use the same approach for both my professional work and my personal photography. Intimate access to a subject is definitely a factor that facilitates engaging images, and I think my best work comes when I am invested in a subject as well close to them.
In August, I stopped in NYC for what was supposed to be a month of freelancing before returning home to California. Long story short, I accidentally got a job in a photo studio and decided to stick around.
Between figuring out the difference between express and local stops and scrambling for an apartment that wasn’t a windowless five story walk up, I also found myself learning more about photography than I ever thought possible. No, my understanding of composition hasn’t reached new, otherworldly dimensions and sadly, I can still barely work a lighting kit. But goddamn, do I now know how to hustle in the photo business.
There is no place in the world with more work for photographers but inversely, there is also no place with a higher concentration of photographers. Building on the fact that New York City residents have a natural propensity to go out as often as possible while also getting to network, there are a lot of events for photographers. These gatherings inevitably have free food, new contacts to give my business cards to ( if stickers of my photos with my contact info written on the back count as business cards)or at the very least allow me to look at art for a few hours.
These events aren’t restricted to NYC, however. I read about cool events in LA, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, and even places like Tampa and Kansas City have some legit events going down. And where the hell is Turner Falls, anyway?
So, even if New York photographers have an unfair advantage, everyone else has the advantage of not being in “Competitive City” (my friend Nick refuses to call NYC by any other name). I’ll be posting about NYC events anyway, so you can cheat and read about them here as the sparknotes to the actual events.
My next victim? This man right here:
photo by jaz_photo on flickr
For those who don’t know David Alan Harvey, he is a Magnum photographer and driving force behind burn magazine . Harvey also established the Emerging Photographer Fund, which myself and 1,028 other individuals just applied to on April 1. He posted an invite on burn to come by his loft to check out some student work tomorrow. Besides being a mere 10 minute bike ride from my new place (I<3Williamsburg), he mentioned surprise guests in his invite. MORE Magnum photogs? Be still my heart. Check back soon for a low down on my DAH adventure.
In August, I stopped in NYC for what was supposed to be a month of freelancing before returning home to California. Long story short, I accidentally got a job in…