Charlie Borst, Director of Photography at Education Week, Sept. 28th, Bethesda, Maryland
Thursday’s agenda started with an appointment at USA Today, the only newspaper on our itinerary. We met with Andy Scott, sports photo editor, Sean Dougherty, photo editor, and Mike Tsukamoto, also a photo editor. Mike mentioned as an editor he looks for photographs that are different for the general. They encouraged us to know the news, build communications skills, and not get too discouraged when shoots do not always turn out perfect.
Our second stop was at Education Week, where we met with director of photography, Charlie Borst. Charlie was a judge last spring at our NPPA “What We Do Show,” so many of us were already comfortable talking with him, which made for good discussion. Education Week is quite appealing; they run interesting stories, give their photographers time to shoot them, and compensate generously. Charlie cautioned after sharing Ed Week’s day rate; “I pay too much to suffer mediocrity.” His photographers are reliable and talented. They get the shots or they do not get hired again. He shared one piece of advice I found especially poignant; “Don’t piss off anybody on the way up because you may have to work with them on the way down.” No matter what you think of the people you work with, find a way to get along. Creative minds need to be reminded of that on occasion. Though Charlie had several jobs in the business before Education Week, he seems to be a man who truly loves his current work. I admire this and hope find myself in a similar position, at a publication I believe in, when I have put in as many years as he has.
The day concluded with an alumni gathering where I met many interesting people. I was able to spend more time with AP’s Jacquelyn Martin, and her friend and freelance photographer, Melissa Golden. Shooters from the Washington Post, like Marvin Joseph, our host from USA Today, and many other notables attended. Despite hearing many different words of wisdom from these professionals, they all had one thing in common; they love what they do.
Susan Walsh, AP staff photographer, Washington, D.C.
This week marks a rare opportunity as a student of photographer and I will be posting daily on my experiences.
Today was the start of a week long, whirlwind, tour of the photojournalism business as it exists in Washington, D.C. There is a plethora of media in this city; wire services, magazines, newspapers, and freelance photographers, are all generously giving their time to share wisdom with a group of wide-eyed photojournalism students. Our first visits were to two wire services, McClatchey, and the AP.
At McClatchy, we met with Bureau Photo Editor, Linda Epstein. Linda explained her duties included hiring freelancers and putting photographs out for the wire. As a photographer who would like to freelance in the future, it was informative to hear from an editor who hires freelancers. Her advice included be an independent worker, get ample caption information, do not under or overestimate your abilities, be a self-starter, find a mentor, and network. One of her comments that stood out to me in regard to hiring; “You are only as good as your weakest photograph.” She also emphasized the importance of reading contracts and being able to understand what you are signing.
Our second meeting, at the AP, was courtesy of the Assistant Chief of Photos at the Washington Bureau, David Ake, and photographer Jacquelyn Martin. The bureau mainly covers political events, with a peppering of sports. Ake stressed that if we want to be one of his photographers we have to love politics and being on the road. Ake said you have to “know the news” and know why you’re being sent to a particular assignment. No one is going to tell you what the story is. He wants a photographer on his team that has originality, a unique approach, is independent, and can think on their feet. Like Linda Epstein, he’s not interested in photographers that require mothering. His photographers also need serious chutzpah; “You’ll be around a lot of powerful people. You have to be able to tell the president to get out of the way. Eventually, he’ll just be another guy in a suit.”
Ake explained more of the skills he looks for in his photographers. He wants people that know their equipment, know their audience, and are hungry for the job. “Tenacity wins,” Ake said. “You have to be willing to eat tomato soup and oatmeal for 5 years.” Jacquelyn Martin pointed that out as well, “This job needs to be why you get up in the morning.” Martin spoke of how she completed 4 internships and sent out 100 resumes before landing a staff job.
Today’s visits were strong learning experiences and several messages were accentuated at both wire services.
-Do not just be a sharp photographer, be a sharp business person. Do not short change yourself and undervalue your photographs to get a foot in the door.
-Employers do not want to hold your hand. Know how to make travel arrangements yourself.
-Network, network, network. All three encouraged us to keep in touch.
I’ve returned to New York to finish the last year of my undergraduate education. Creating this blog will cause me to miss my home more than usual this year, but at least I will be able to return to the memories present in these photographs. I will continue to update from my current location to observe how Rochester compares to Mount Vernon.
A parting poem, by an Ohioan
Quilts by Nikki Giovanni
(for Sally Sellers) Like a fading piece of cloth I am a failure No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter My seams are frayed my hems falling my strength no longer able To hold the hot and cold I wish for those first days When just woven I could keep water From seeping through Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave Dazzled the sunlight with my Reflection I grow old though pleased with my memories The tasks I can no longer complete Are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past I offer no apology only this plea: When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt That I might keep some child warm And some old person with no one else to talk to Will hear my whispers And cuddle near
Emily in the Upside-Down Tree
Historic location on Kenyon College campus
My dear friend grew up in Gambier, just a short jaunt from Mount Vernon. As children, we spent many afternoons in the Upside-Down tree’s shaded confines. Despite having grown older, the tree is still able to cast the same spell of wonder it did when I was a child. It’s a place that belongs in a poem.