An aspiring photojournalist in a college class I speak to off and on each year didn’t look happy after class recently.
She said she was considering switching majors.
“I want to be a news photographer at a time when news photography appears to be on its way out,” she said. “Maybe I need to find a career that is part of the future, not the past.”
A half-decade ago, I thought photography was part of what would be a permanent part of the future. I received a Nikon F 35-mm single lens reflex camera and three lenses: A 28-mm wide angle, a 50-mm “normal” lens and a 200-mm telephoto as a birthday present from my grandparents in Florida on December 17th of 2014.
I was working full-time as a reporter-photographer for The Floyd Press while also studying as a senior at Floyd County High School and was also a part-time “stringer” for The Roanoke Times. My new cameras allowed me to photograph news and features on 36-exposure of Tri-X Pan black-and-white film.
At 17, the future seemed full of promise. The Times had already agree to hire me in the summer of 1965 after graduation and I shifted my plans for college from the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville to the Roanoke campus on Grandin Road so I could attend college full time while working at The Times.
Now, 50 years later, I am back at The Floyd Press reporting and photographing as a newspaperman for BH Media, but also shoot video and photos and write in the “new technology” of the digital world.
My original Nikon F, battered and worn but still working, sits in a box in the closet along with later Nikons and lenses — replaced by Canon digital cameras that shoot still photos and produce high-definition videos,
Many of the photos that now appear in papers and on the web are shot with a Canon C100 “motion picture” camera and are “image captures” of the motion recorded on what is called a “CFast” card. It stores hours of video.
In an average month, more than 100 of my photos appear on newspaper pages and videos I produce for Vimeo, YouTube and other video services were viewed by thousands of people from 47 countries last week. Those figures are just a drop in the proverbial bucket among the millions of photos and videos produced online by countless others throughout the world.
Over the last decade, several million readers and viewers have viewed my work on paper, television screens and video monitors throughout the world. But I’m not anyone special. I just a working journalist who produces words and image to the currently available mediums that distribute my work.
So my answer to that young aspiring photojournalist is that she should consider her planned line of work as part of the future — and an ever-expanding one at that.
But I also reminded her that the late newspaperman Robert White once advised aspiring newspapermen and women to consider journalism only “if there is nothing else that can, or want to, do.
I ignored that advice for part of my life and took a now-regretted trip to the “dark side” of politics. I made a lot of money but was miserable and ignored truth and morality in the pursuit of victory and power.
Thankfully, I woke and sobered up and returned to my first love.
Journalism is, and always should be, a lifestyle choice for those who cannot, and should not, do anything else for a living.
It’s not just a living. It’s a calling and I’m glad that I was called more than half a decade ago.