Jim McNay, one of the world's most respected photojournalism educators, wrote an article last month for Sportsshooter.com titled, "One of Today's Great Question's: Why Blog?" He interviewed many photographers and found many different answers. Since photographers are visual story tellers it was not surprising that many photographers do not blog. However, some photographers are using the new technology to tell stories, just as photojournalists have begun using digital cameras, video cameras, websites and other new inventions. Some blogs interest me; many don't.
When I first started blogging, I asked, "Why do I blog?"
My blogs bored me and my readers (if I had any). I did not even send my blog to my mother. My writing was contrived, forced, and awkward. I didn't feel comfortable with the interface. Eventually, I found something worth writing about. I wrote a good sentence, and then a decent paragraph. After all, I enjoy telling stories, and with my blog I can share more detail. I can use more photos AND words. I also enjoy the new technology now that I understand it. I like manipulating the interface and the code. I like planning the sequence of stories, which is something many bloggers seem to ignore. I also like sharing parts of myself with friends or potential clients. And during this process, I have learned a great deal about myself. I have also learned that I can write. But I work at it. Just as I worked hard to become a photographer.
Today, I have another reason for blogging -- I want to show gratitude to someone who has helped me become a better educator, a better writer, a better photographer and a better blogger. Today, I want to thank Coach McNay.
Jim will probably be uncomfortable with this recognition, so I won't praise him too much, but a little acknowledgment shouldn't hurt. Because of Jim, I have been granted access to people and events that I never imagined. I learned about entire subjects that I didn't know existed. And I have learned how to take a decent photo. Jim has done this for many people. There is an unofficial group of Jim McNay fans. I am definitely a member.
When I met Jim, we both worked at Brooks Institute of Photography. (Brooks is a world famous photography college.) He directed the Visual Journalism Program; he seemed to know everyone and everything about photojournalism. I was a former school teacher, who worked with potential students and high school educators. I knew about F stops, shutter speeds and film speeds by hanging out at the local camera store during summer vacations, but these Brooks people were on a completely different level. They used their camera like Clapton played guitar; like Miles Davis played the... Compared to these people, I didn't know anything. I certainly had not heard of Capa or Eugene Smith or Lee Miller.
But I knew enough to start asking questions and following directions. And Jim was kind enough to send me his book list. I started reading. I also read his sportsshooter on-line portfolio critiques, and I started taking thousands of bad pictures, occasionally showing some to Jim. When he told me about the Bay Area Press Photographers Association, I started going to monthly meetings. At first, I hid in the back.
At meetings and conventions, I dropped Jim McNay's name so often that people knew me as "the Guy who knows Jim McNay." Funny thing though, other people wanted to talk about Jim, even established photographers. Jim wrote another Sportsshooter.com article titled "Photojournalism: A Small World." It was a good piece about how the photojournalism world is rather small. But it isn't that small. It is just small to Jim, because everyone knows him.
This week, Jim is traveling from Santa Barbara to New York for the 22nd annual Eddie Adams Workshop, where 100 of the top young photojournalists will gather with top pros and mentors. Jim attends most years he continues to look for the next amazing student and the new trend. He keeps up with old friends and he keeps asking the important questions, usually without attracting much attention to himself.Lately, I have wondered how my life would be different if not for Jim.
I wonder how many others have asked the same question?