After graduating from college I really thought I was God’s gift to the photojournalism world. I sent my application letters off to all of the largest newspapers in the country. Of course, none responded. I then migrated down the food chain to medium sized papers and once again did not receive any responses to my application queries. Finally, I heard about a job for the Brooksville, FL, Sun-Journal, a tri-weekly paper of only a few thousand in circulation. I took the job for $125 a week.
This was the best thing that could have happened to me. Besides correcting my over-inflated ego, starting at the bottom was a wonderful teaching experience. I had to do everything. I came up with story ideas. I shot. I did all of the darkroom work. I wrote the captions. I even helped do the paste-up for the paper. (Some newcomers to photography might have to google words like darkroom and paste-up.) And of course the day was never done till my work areas were swept and cleaned.
After my stay at this paper, I began both lateral and upward moves to other papers: The Tampa Tribune, The Fort Myers News-Press, and finally the Louisville, KY, Courier-Journal. That last stop was the pinnacle of a perfect newspaper job. I mainly worked for the Sunday Magazine as a staff photographer.
At the Magazine we had the freedom and support to develop our own long-term projects. Whatever our interests were, we could pursue. At the time, adventure photography was coming of age and I attempted stories on mountain climbing, rock climbing, and caving. I also relished my time in the studio shooting food and fashion. It was a time of trying anything and everything. These were the years of my true education.
Then, one dark and ominous day (dramatic huh?), the Magazine staff was called into the conference room and given the devastating news that we were being shut down. The Magazine, the most read section of the newspaper, was being cancelled because it did not bring in enough ad revenue to justify its existence.
I called my wife with the awful news, but I did not get the response I was expecting. She said, “How exciting!” Ok, I was prepared for, “I’m so sorry”, or “What are we going to do now?” But “How exciting”…I was stunned. She went on to encourage that she was convinced that God would open new doors of opportunities.
And that is exactly what happened. We moved to Atlanta to continue and grow our then sideline business of shooting stock photos for Getty Images. This move was indeed a God orchestrated and inspired shift in our lives. Since 1994 we have earned about 90% of our income from shooting conceptual stock images for Getty, Workbook Stock, and Alamy. I say “we” because my wife, Vivian, and I work together on every image produced. I normally push the actual shutter, but every other aspect from concept to business organization is handled together.
But the passion for photojournalism has never diminished. We continue to do both assigned and self-assigned projects for both NGO’s (Non-governmental organizations) and faith-based aid groups all over the world. This is our passion.