I am a lucky guy in that as an Olympus Visionary, I get to associate with some of the best photographers in the world. Included on that list are Pulitzer Prize winners, Jay Dickman and Larry C. Price.
Last year, the Visionary team members were all invited to San Francisco, courtesy of Olympus – to discuss our opinions on how to improve Olympus cameras and to get news of things to come from Olympus.
We were chauffeured around the city and also got to shoot together and eat together. One of the things I got to do on that trip was hang out with Jay and Larry.
Since I am never gonna be anywhere near an actual Pulitzer Prize, I decided this was a good time to use BOTH of my ears and listen intently to what a couple of Pulitzer Prize winners had to say.
It’s interesting to note that even though we were all at a gear summit (of sorts) what I heard from Jay and Larry was talk of story telling.
In fact, Jay said this phrase several times…. “Back when I got into the newspaper business.” Larry said something similar. It resonated with me.
Now let’s digest that statement – because even in a short, seemingly unimportant introductory sentence, Jay taught me something. Jay was a newspaper photographer. Something that is very rare today. He and Larry are photojournalists. Both men worked for newspapers. Larry worked at the Fort Worth Star Telegram (and others) and Jay worked for the Dallas Times Herald (and others.)
The fact that Jay described himself as entering the newspaper business as opposed to saying he was a photographer really caught my attention.
Why? Because if you are ever lucky enough to watch Jay work, you’ll see that the story – the STORY is what drives him to press his shutter button. He sees himself as a story teller – a journalist – no asterisk needed to denote that he is a PHOTO journalist – just a journalist.
As photographers, we’re high priests and priestesses of memory protection. We tell stories. If we do our jobs well, our photographs will live on beyond us to inform and educate those who come after us. It’s really important that we get it right.
While we all love our gear, me included – and while gear is important (that’s why Jay, Larry and I shoot Olympus) it’s still critical to remember WHY we use those tools. It’s because we want to tell stories. We want to say something. We want to share something. We want to express our own point-of-view.
I literally spent days thinking about Jay’s statement – “I got into the newspaper business.” It has informed much of my thinking since.
While the camera forums are full of wannabes spouting off useless stats about pixel pitch, low-light capability and the differences between one format’s depth-of-field advantage over another, the guys who win Pulitzer Prizes for photography – guys like Jay and Larry – well they’re talking about STORY and STORYTELLING – shouldn’t you be?