Lots of thoughts spinning around in my head as this year comes to an end.
A week ago I was exiting Rome racing the rising sun to the airport. Driving down small winding streets through the ancient city, past the hulking shell of the old coliseum, resplendent in the dawns early light, dark blue clouds looming, a brightly lit Christmas tree planted firmly in front.
I spent a week in Italy’s capitol following the sage eating and espresso drinking recommendations of my old friend Don Winslow — who edits the NPPA’s News Photographer magazine and who spends his summers in Rome. Outside my hotel the first thing I spotted when I stepped out of the taxi was a poster advertising a current exhibit of Elliot Erwitt’s Work — he’s one of my heroes — perfect way to start the trip.
The entire time I was thinking of Missy. My strong friend who I photographed running in front of the coliseum four years ago during the production of one of my first multimedia projects.
The first story I did with her I spent a year shooting, it’s the longest story I have ever worked on. She’s much more than a friend, when you spend that kind of intense time with someone the bond you develop is powerful and deep.
Joe Elbert, my editor at the Miami Herald entered Missy in the World Press Photo competition without telling me. He was always conscious of those things, he just had a sense about what to do.
I’m headed to Amsterdam soon to judge WPP, again.
When did I go from being the baby to being the veteran? In the blink of an eye or maybe 10 million clicks of a shutter.
Back to Rome, back in a visual sense to my roots. The summer I turned 17, my first time out of the country, the first time I realized just how much I loved making images, I spent time walking around Rome, in awe of the majesty of the place. Back then it was one camera, a Canon ExEE, fitted with a 50mm f 1.8 lens, and filled with Kodak’s Tri-X film. I took 10 rolls to get me through a 5-week trip spanning Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Israel, and France. A bunch of my editors must be smiling at that thought.
The first time I went to Europe my Dad cautioned me to not take pictures with people in them. His logic was that the images wouldn’t be interesting to me later if I cluttered them up with people I didn’t care about. His advice was usually sound, but in this case he could not have been more wrong. The lesson I learned instead was that, for me, it was the people that made the images. I didn’t recognize it then, but I was setting the stage for a life of roaming the planet looking for moments to record, people to photograph. It wasn’t too long before I understood that the key to making strong photojournalistic images, at least for me, is having the ability to fall in love every day.
Last week, I was roaming the streets of Rome with two D800′s fitted with a pair fast prime lenses, shooting b/w jpegs and NEFS. I can’t imagine what I could have recorded with a lifetime of using these marvelous tools. For sure I would have shot–not just directed or produced — significantly more video.
For filmmaking, getting the tools back into my hands, the eye piece to my eye changed everything for me. The entire dynamic. For that I have to thank my friend Bill Pekela, he showed me the way.
I love doing the short documentaries. Daily life. That’s my passion, and combining stills, video and audio allow me to really express myself fully. That’s where Laura and I spend much of our time, more with every passing year.
Similarly the Web and iBooks have opened up a world of possibilities for sharing my work. Self publishing. Shooting what I want to shoot, when I want to shoot it is incredibly liberating. Make no mistake, I love the traditional forms of distribution of my photographs and films. Having both options is just, better.
The photography world is changing. Rapidly. I spend at least an hour a day studying. Keeping abreast of developments in both hardware and software.
When I can, I put in another hour or two just looking at the work of others. It goes straight to my pure love of photography.
Working with Laura and Sara is inspirational for me too. I am very lucky to have them with me leading the way on this journey.
One of the best things about this year has been spending time with my friend Tom Lynn, another one of the legion of photojournalists raised by Heniz Kluetmeier. We were talking recently about the way we are sharing stories and images now, and Tom’s comment was a direct reflection of my feelings. “I’m working harder now than I ever have, and I’m having more fun.”
I heard that loud and clear.
Lot’s of miles, plenty of hotel rooms and a half million images this year.
Laura and I worked in 35 states and 16 countries. Some of them a few times.
Next year promises more of the same.
First up, the BCS National Championship game in Miami.