You Know You’re a Photojournalist When…
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Photojournalists-camerasPhotographers attempt to capture a picture of Julian Assange, believed to be in this prison van, leaving Westminster Magistrates Court on December 7, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A student referred me to the website “You Are Not a Photographer”, which started me thinking about the whole, “I am, you’re not” finger-pointing going on in photography. I don’t want to further that, but it did get me thinking about what photojournalists tend to experience in their daily life. If you see yourself meeting most of the 50 criteria below, you know you’re in the ballpark of being a true-blue photojournalist. If you’d like to add your own criteria in the comments section, please do!
1. You have french fries under your front seat and spilled coffee near your gearshift.
2. You rip your pants jumping a fence.
3. You view big press events as family gatherings.
4. You gamble on how far you can go on an empty gas tank.
5. You win an award then find yourself shooting a pothole the next day.
6. You find yourself silently yelling at people who pass in front of your lens “Get out of the way!”
7. You accumulate press passes in your home from various events you’ve been fortunate to attend.
8. You see colleagues drop like flies around you when their backs give out.
9. You love your GPS until it makes you late for an assignment by sending you on a wild goose chase.
10. You lay out your front-page picture on the kitchen table for a long period of time and even look at it from the next room.
11. You cry out “Nooooo!” when you see a cropped version of your photo appear in print.
12. You photograph a chili cook-off, a pet-of-the-week, or a gurney race – two years in a row.
13. You fantasize about out-shooting James Nachtwey on an assignment in your community where he shows up.
14. You get incredible access to a huge event and try to play it cool.
15. You catch yourself laughing at a joke at a crime scene and realize how much of a schmuck that makes you appear to onlookers.
16. You see a whole crowd of television stations show up at a press conference to respond to a story you worked on the day before.
17. You sometimes feel like a vulture, a snake or a weasel even while trying to be sensitive on assignments.
18. You receive a phone call from a mom saying your picture made her son’s day.
19. You show up to an assignment to find you have dead batteries, full cards, or both.
20. You wish you owned your copyright but appreciate the health care if you work for a company.
21. You see a public relations professional’s friendly demeanor vanish when an assignment takes an unexpected turn.
22. You whine about photo contests because of their overseas bias, then enter anyway.
23. You are an expert of the dollar menu at McDonald’s.
24. You start referring to incredibly sad pictures as “great.”
25. You may know more about a particular topic than the reporter but can’t tell them what to write.
26. You have ink marks and holes punched in the back of your car seat from the pens in your back pocket.
27. You feel like a kid at Christmas when you either buy or get assigned new cameras.
28. You experiment with at least three different types of material to bounce light from your flash. At least two of them are hand-made.
29. You get yelled at by a security guard or police officer.
30. Your car battery dies after recharging your laptop and camera batteries.
31. You go to the bathroom in gross places out of sheer desperation.
32. Your dentist whispers over your shoulder “So how do you become a photographer?”
33. You drive your car around with a laptop open in the passenger seat, hoping and praying for a signal so you can transmit your photos.
34. You get pretty good at “Hail Mary” pictures (see above photo).
35. You donate a print for a good cause.
36. You work all the holidays, mystifying friends and neighbors.
37. You have a long list of reprints you promised (It’s time to go do them).
38. You would like to finish an assignment in minutes but decide to stay hours to do the situation justice.
39. You photograph a bored or unruly child at a press conference because you’re bored too.
40. You shoot five silhouettes in one week until a colleague shakes you to your senses.
41. You receive five assignments in one day. Or eight.
42. You get a hand-written thank you note from an elderly person thanking you for your care and sensitivity in making his portrait.
43. You buy nice clothes to polish your appearance then slip back into wearing jeans and rumpled shirts after your nice clothes get destroyed by mud, fire, and coffee stains.
44. Your family member wonders aloud when you will get a real job.
45. You are amazed that you have this job.
46. You throw up your hands when it comes to video, “nat sound” and social media, saying, “All I want to do is take pictures!”
47. You leave your power cord at the office and rush to get your work done with 5% power left.
48. You realize that your blue pictures are caused by not changing the tungsten white balance from the prep basketball game you photographed the night before.
49. You wish a life partner could be there to experience all the crazy, wonderful and sometimes difficult things you experience that get lost in the retelling.
50. You hope to change the world with your photographs.