Every photographer has to have a long-tern project.
Thats what my photojournalism teacher tells me anyway. I agree.
This summer, I’ve chosen to document smalltown rodeos around rural Oklahoma. I’ve already begun the project, and can’t wait to do more.
During my orientation with the Oklahoman, where I’m interning this summer, many of the speakers told us to have long-term projects to work on, because its in-depth storytelling that makes news organizations valuable. The surface can be scratched by anyone; bloggers, facebookers, tweeters. Day-to-day storytelling happens by everyone online. But journalists have the resources to go beyond that, and expand on issues and themes important to its audience.
I need this storytelling practice because I haven’t worked on many in depth stories before. A broad topic like rodeos will need a focus, and if I can hone-in on one, and make some great images, I’ll certainly be getting somewhere.
I’m not sure what my focus is yet, but when I do, I’ll post and let you know.
For the time being, enjoy this halfway-terrible rodeo video, with Garth Brooks’ famous rodeo song.
Stories from the Picture Kentucky workshop which sparked this blog are many. But the first I would like to share was the one I am still living down today. All it took was for Davide Labelle, a very well respected photojournalist, to ask me a simple question.
“Are you a writer?”
Harmless at first glance, but it was so much more than that.
So, at Picture Kentucky, it was a mixed bag of photojournalists and noobies looking to pick up the craft. Many of them worked at my student newspaper in a variety of roles, but all with print journalism backgrounds; writers in other words.
I was the assistant photo editor of my paper, the Kentucky Kernel, and I was proud of that. So proud, I wanted nothing else but to make the best pictures out of everyone, and impress everyone. I needed to prove to myself that I could take on the job responsibilities.
In short, I needed to impress Davide Labelle.
That didn’t happen.
In fact, I did the opposite. After the first day of the workshop, and I had returned with my first set of photos, David, as my team leader, started looking through my take.
He shook his head, muttering to himself “Brandon, Brandon, Brandon…” in that sad tone that any word which arrives in triple succession means bad news. Then, he gave me a good once over and asked, “Are you a writer?”
Or in other words, “Are you a noobie wannabe photographer who doesn’t know what he’s doing?”
Yes, you could say I’ve dwelled on it a bit. And when I told my friends about it, they have drug the joke on well past its prime. But after the incident, I knew I was nowhere close to where I needed to be.
I become a sponge during that workshop. Soaking in all the advice I could fit in my brain that four hours of sleep would allow.
Things like: “Its not what they are doing we care about, its where they are doing it,” a piece of advice that is still helping me today.
I think I’ve become a much better photographer because of that paranoia. To think someone would mistake me again for something I was not has propelled my need to make better pictures.
It’s only one fraction that pushes me to work hard, but its a part thats lasted with me through much of my photographic career.
Got any funny photo stories you want to share?
Email me a firstname.lastname@example.org with “Composition Notebook Post” in the subject line, and i’ll post it on the site.
On Oct. 2, 2010, I was given a composition notebook.
I was told to fill it with experiences and lessons which would make me a better storyteller and photographer. It was given to me in front of other blooming storytellers by a man who possesses my unshakable respect.
Originally, David Labelle, my mentor during the photojournalism workshop Picture Kentucky, told me I needed it because I was having trouble with the composition of my photographs. He said maybe someday I could return that notebook to him with it filled.
I intend to do so.
I have until next year’s Picture Kentucky workshop to fill every page with entries on how to tell better stories, and reach my full potential. I am journalist, and I will meet my deadline.
A person is a composition in themselves, crafted through life experiences. We are molded by the people we meet, the stories we hear and share, the friends we keep and the dreams we work towards. Through this project, I hope to become the best person I can be, and compose within myself the characteristics of a true storyteller.
With this in mind, I want to invite you on my journey to fill that composition notebook. Maybe you can learn from my entries. Maybe I can learn from yours. We’re in this together. Let it begin.