For the past few months I have been working on a long term story on the Victor High School baseball team. With the majority of my documentary and heavy shooting over I was able to shoot their Sectional Final game with more of a game coverage angle. Above are a few images from last Thursday when they captured their third consecutive sectional title 12-1 over Greece Athena playing at the local minor league park, Frontier Field, in downtown Rochester.Members of the Victor High School Baseball team wait while the team from Greece Athena High School warms up before the Section V Class AA Final at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y. Greece Athena's Joey Alfieri (11) follows through while pitching during the Section V Class AA Final against Victor High School at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Victor's Josh Busch (1), left, dives into home plate as the throw from the field bounces past Greece Athena catcher Jack Vivinetto (7), in the bottom of the the first inning. Member of the Victor High School baseball team, Jon Schlesing (4), first from left, and Jon Simmons (15), second from left, hold the championship trophy after defeating Greece Athena 12-1.
Last Sunday I had the opportunity to photograph the championship finals of the NCAA Divison III men’s lacrosse tournament between RIT TIgers and Stevenson University Mustangs. It was a cool experience photographing the RIT fans as they tailgated before hand and then photographing the game which had of the most bizarre scoring I have ever seen. The Mustangs outscored the tigers 12-2 in the first and fourth quarters and Tigers outscored the Mustangs 12-4 in the middle two quarters. It was a cool experience to work in a stadium of one of the big four major leagues among many experienced photographers. Here are some pictures from the weekend:
Alumni of the RIT lacrosse team chant “R-I-T” while tailgating in the parking lot outside Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. before the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse National Championship between RIT and Stevenson University on Sunday, May 26, 2013.
RIT’s Tyler Brooks-Lambert, right, knocks the ball loose from Stevenson University’s Connor Curro, left, following a face-off as RIT trailed 4-0 in the first quarter.
RIT’s Alec Sulesky shoots from far out during the final minutes of the first quarter. Sulesky’s shot was blocked.
RIT fans from left: Amanda Seymour, Kristen Wozniak, 4th year Graphic Design major, and Marty Tobin, 2nd year Civil Engineering major celebrate a goal as RIT leads during extends it’s lead to 13-10 in the third quarter.
RIT’s Alec Sulesky, right, celebrates his goal that narrowed Stevenson’s lead to one, 15-14, with more than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
The RIT team walks across the field after losing 16-14 to Stevenson University in the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse National Championship at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday, May 26, 2013.
RIT senior Matt Lesczynski is consoled by fans after the presentation of the second place team trophy.
This spring I spent a good amount of time following the RIT Men’s Lacrosse team on a trip that led them to the NCAA Championship. The road was full of high pressure matchups with the final two games against the only teams to have bested them earlier in the year: SUNY Cortland and Stevenson University, both beating the Tigers in overtime near the start of their season.
The first match was in the semifinals against the #1-ranked SUNY Cortland Red Dragons on their home turf. Though the Tigers got out to a quick start leading 5-1 at half and extending the lead to five points in the third quarter, when the final buzzer sounded it was tied at 9.
The Tigers won though prevailing with Allister Warren’s goal on a trick play they advanced to the final game riding the emotions that an extravagant overtime win produce. Here is a little edit from the game:
The Rochester Institute of Technology men’s lacrosse team celebrates with alumni and fans following their win in the NCAA Division III Tournament Semifinals against SUNY Cortland at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex in Cortland, N.Y. on Sunday, May 19, 2013. RIT won the game 10-9 in overtime to send them to the Championship game against Stevenson University to be held May 26, in Philadelphia, Pa.
Rochester Institute of Technology Head Coach Jake Coon addresses his team before their NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Semifinal game against SUNY Cortland at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex in Cortland, N.Y., on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
Theresa Contento, parent of Rochester Institute of Technology player Anthony Contento, cheers for her son’s team during the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Semifinals against SUNY Cortland at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex in Cortland, N.Y., on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
Allister Warren celebrates his game winning goal during the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Semifinals against SUNY Cortland at SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex in Cortland, N.Y. on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Warren’s goal lifted RIT 10-9 over Cortland to send them to the NCAA Championships against Stevenson University held May 26, in Philadelphia, Pa.
Rochester Institute of Technology freshman Owen Nicola, left, and his girlfriend Adrienne Michalakis embrace after RIT’s win over SUNY Cortland in the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Semifinals at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex in Cortland, N.Y. on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
With the trip far behind me I have had a chance to consider everything that we heard and think about what it meant for me.
Sitting in the company of successful professionals talking about the industry and photographs is a rare chance for which I am entirely grateful. What we heard and saw in their company was at the same time intimidating and reassuring. Intimidating because humility is the only way to approach accomplished individuals, some our heroes, all with something we could learn, and the organizations for which they worked. Reassuring because it made us realize that for all their accomplishment they were at some point working at our level and that makes achieving what they have through the same means as they: tireless and directed work; seem all that much more tangible and less like a student’s dreams.
Many of the things that we heard this week were not revelations, they were things that we had heard in many other places: the classroom, conferences, conversations with other photographers. I think any of the revelations that occurred during, or as a result of the week were making connections and furthering understanding of our profession, our field, and ourselves. More than once I have noticed my professors state, either explicitly or subtly through a smug grin, that they have shared all of this with us before just we hadn’t believed them. However it is not a matter of not trusting their experience, often in the classroom we hear about these abstract concepts like passion and drive and they are that: intangible ideas. Over the week we visited 10 different publications, wire services, and photographers, and what we heard was the same overarching themes put to words and shown in practice in 10 different ways. In boiling these themes down to their essence I arrive at this:
To excel in the world of photojournalism, or anywhere, you need to have an unparalleled work ethic. Such a dedication is impossible to maintain without being excited about your work. You are more than just your portfolio, you are a person and in addition to being passionate, you need to be curious, view the world in an interesting way and be able to work and communicate with others. The sum of the aforementioned is that which makes you different. As we enter the industry in a time of upheaval and saturation standing out is essential. Though many have negative things to say as technology brings a flood of competition and decreasing profitability for the old models, they ignore positive: the same technology also brings countless new opportunities for us to figure out how to continue to make what we do viable. What was present everywhere, whether it was directly identified or remained unspoken, was the reminder that we as photojournalists have a job that is exclusive, as not many are willing to make the sacrifices required to be successful; bears a great deal of responsibility, in duty to our subjects and viewers; but is ultimately and unmeasurably rewarding.
Leslye Davis of The New York Times explained the required work ethic best: “If you think you are working hard then you are not working hard enough.” It is easy to let yourself be distracted while in school however as we were reminded we have an immense amount of resources in school that leave as soon as we walk out the door: the trust and the generosity of subjects that is given to students, and an abundance of free time. The dedication must be accompanied by a resilience, many of the people were far into careers that could have ended early if they were not so fully committed to the profession. We were reminded hearing “no” was an expectation and that our reaction to rejections is as important as our success. One of the quotes that resonated with me the most fell into persevering, Lucas Jackson of Reuters reminded us to set reasonable expectations for ourself “You can’t kick yourself every time you don’t get it perfect.”
The importance of our passion for doing what we do was said many times: “It’s got to be what gets you through the tough times.” (Pablo Bernasconi of Getty) “be excited to go to bed late and get up early.” (Frank Fournier) However equally and more important was the passion that we saw, if people didn’t come right out and say it we could tell it in the way they talked about their images, their job, or their history.
From virtually every editor we heard that we need to have good interpersonal skills. Not only because they want to work with communicative photographers on assignments but because as James Estrin said ”Conversation is the crux of an intimate story.” What we heard from most editors is that story telling and the story component of a portfolio is most important to them when they are hiring. Also although pictures are the product when editors give out assignments they are hiring you as a photographer they want you to be something more than just your pictures. Having an inquisitiveness about the world is an essential quality for a journalist but things like disposition and reliability play a large role as well.
Though we heard a little of the hard truth about how the landscape of the industry is changing, the people who hosted us focused mostly on what we could do to make ourselves able to find work. Probably the thing that we heard most often and most emphasized was to develop a diverse set of skills beyond still photography: shooting video, editing multimedia, writing, and coding skills were all mentioned as additions that editors looked for. Many places we visited talked about the reductions in staff that they have had to make over the last few years, we were told that a reliance on local freelancers has developed from that. Another reassuring sentiment was about the immense opportunity that the internet was providing, Estrin strongly encouraged us to look at what could be done differently saying ”You’re just limited solely by the size of your ideas.”
Finally everything we heard just reinforced how amazing of a profession it is to have. Whether it was through people talking about their stories and the opportunities they have had in the past or seeing their excitement for what they are currently working on. Sometimes it was reminding us of the importance of what we do, that we don’t matter and that we are here to tell people’s stories and create a historical record for the future. However what was most the important we have a job that many others envy, comes with benefits that are equivocal with those of any other job. As Fournier phrased it: ”You will have a wonderful life.”
Friday was one of the longest days with an early appointment at Human Rights Watch, a stop at The New Yorker and ending the trip at Time Magazine.
Humans Rights Watch was a unique visit for us as it was our only visit to a non-governmental organization during our week. We met with Communications Director Emmma Daly who spoke about the role and goals of HRW and how they use photography. As Daly explained the aim of the organization is to investigate human rights abuses with the goal of ending them. As a means to that end they publish many of their investigations in a paper or small book form, where photography comes in is they found that 150 pages of text was not the best at capturing their audiences attention. Photographs were added to create a more powerful impact, an emotional connection that is harder to ignore than words.
What was most interesting was the relationships and comparisons that Daly drew with the work that Human Rights Watch does and that of traditional journalistic outlets. “We bear witness,…” she said, “…but with the aim of changing things. A lot of the people that work for HRW, like herself, come from a journalism background said Daly. What helped her with transition to an NGO was the way that she saw the subject matter in journalism, she covered human right issues but as human interest stories.
One of the main advantages she mentioned of working with an NGO is that unlike the time and space constraints of a deadline and a set product that come with journalism, there is a higher degree of freedom in amount of time that they are able to devote to projects and freedom in what the final product may be. The journalism backgrounds come in handy in that a major way in that the organization pursues its goal is by trying to persuade the media to cover the issues that they have investigated.
Next we visited another unique stop on trip going to the offices of The New Yorker, where we met with three of the five photo editors, Director of Photography Whitney Johnson, and Associate Picture Editors Elissa Curtis and Jessie Wender.
Though The New Yorker is a literary magazine while the rest of the publications we visited were focused on news we heard many of the same things. For one thing there still exists what one of the editors referred to as “The dance between management and photo over space.” Just like many others we had heard from that even with great work it is a struggle for space. “I didn’t realize how much of our job was to fight for the work we have done.” said one of the women, giving those among the class more reason to develop their personal engagement skills.
Part of the challenge for space at their publication is the amount of photography in each issue: On average they publish about five or six images in an issue, which translates to 15 to 16 assignments a month. Although that quantity is no where near the volume of images that is turned over in a month at a daily newspaper they assure us it didn’t mean less work: “Even though there is only a few pictures they each represent a significant amount of research and work that make the one picture.”
In terms of expectations they echoed things we had heard through the week. One thing that they mentioned that was an issue for them lately was captions, that even though they are not a news publication they do publish journalistic work and that thorough information in the captions is vital. A corollary was to check what expectations the person hiring you has. The other thing that they mentioned was people skills, a personality is essential to working with talent and doing portraiture.
They also spoke about how they were using the expanding technology, even as a publication remaining print-first. With so few images actually making it onto the print product they see online as a place of great potential. “We get to feature more great photography” as one of the editors put it. One of the favorite projects is the blog Photo Booth they curate on the magazine’s website. “[We] get more freedom to pursue photography free of a text element” they explained.
One interesting discussion they had was how they handle hiring photographers. Currently they have no staff or contract photographers, options that they admit would provide more consistency, but with the amount of images they are able to publish they prefer to employ freelancers to achieve more variety in the magazine.
When asked about what they look for when hiring, they repeated a familiar sentiment: “Personal vision is most important.”
The final stop of the trip was a visit to the Time-Life Building to meet with a few people at Time Magazine. After being welcomed by Director of Photography Kira Pollack, we sat down with Vaughn Wallace the Producer of Lightbox, Time’s photoblog.
We learned that Lightbox is one of the younger photoblogs in it’s league having started only two years ago. To source the content for Lightbox all the editors are responsible for bringing ideas, which are evaluated on the same characteristics as any story: It’s timeliness, relevancy, and how it contributes to advancing the narrative on whatever subject it is focused. What I thought was interesting is the importance that the department gives the blog, even though content doesn’t end up in the magazine they make sure to fairly compensate the photographer whose work is featured.
One of the reasons that Lightbox appeals to me is the large variety of work they present. Among them is a series that asks photographers to look at an event in retrospect by submitting a short interview and one of their photographs that had an impact on them often to commemorate an anniversary. Well these have been some of my favorite posts I didn’t realize how important for the future these post are until Wallace pointed out that they constitute a “historical record” Though it was just a fleeting comment it was a welcome reminder that the work we do as photojournalist has some use and some relevancy beyond the immediate future, and that those who currently have standing in the field are thinking about it too.
We also met with International Picture Editor Patrick Witty. Who was great, energetic and answered a lot of our questions in a really informal discussion.
What I liked most about was the way the Witty talked about being a photo editor. Early into our conversation he brought up the stereotype that editors are just frustrated photographers, although he is a former photographer that was not the reason he is a photo editor: it’s because he is excited about work. The next few minutes he completely debunked the stereotype with his enthusiasm and interest in the photographers he worked with and the work they produced together. We had heard a lot of talk about the negotiation between management and the photo desk for imagery however when Witty talked about the work that he had pushed for to be on the cover it didn’t seem like a put up a fight because he simply wanted the best photography, but he was passionate and deeply invested in the work, even though he was not the one behind the camera.
How Witty ended up in photo editing also was informative. He said he spent seven years working at newspapers but what was most transformative was an internship at National Geographic where he would volunteer for the tedious grunt work of striping slide transparencies from the full takes that photographers had sent back. That way he was able develop his eye by looking at the work of incredible photographers in way that he would have never had access to otherwise.
He provided some advice for us about portfolio: like other editors we heard from he was looking for a consistent vision, and a set of images that is chosen keeping in mind to whom it is being presented. Also a familiar sentiment he said long term work was most important to him. One of the things we hadn’t heard before was his advice on a websites: He said the first thing he looked at was the biography, followed by the personal work. This highlighted a sentiment we had been hearing all weekend, you need to be a more complete person than just a lot of good pictures.
The last person we talk to was Jonathan Woods, a photo editor at TIME.com. It was great way to end the incredible (but also incredibly long) week because Woods talked about his work in in an energetic and driven manner that was undeniably infectious.
His path to his current position really displayed his focus and drive. He said he never applied to more than one internship, not because he was that confident in his ability as a photographer that he would get the position but because once he had identified what he was working towards he would do everything he could to prepare him to get the postion: research the publication, look at what they were doing and talk with the people that were hiring him. We could tell he was deeply involved in his work, when we ask about specific topics he would begin talking about it as if the subject had been bouncing around his mind all day, in a very open and passionate manner. One thing we saw through his talking about his career was that he seemed to always be thinking in ambitious terms of how can we make this better and then being vocal about it. Ambition seemed to suit him only because it was matched by his work ethic, wanting to work so badly that he would find himself in the offices at 3 a.m. only to realize that he would need to be back to work in six hours.
After getting a quick tour of the floor and spending the night in the city. We took the train out of town hopped and the car and made the sobering drive back to the grey skies of Rochester.