I was talking to a college student studying photojournalism the other day and she was
complaining about a summer internship at a newspaper.


She was surprised that photojournalists aren’t racing from one dramatic news story
to the next at break neck speed and illustrating story after story of great significance.


The reality is the mayor’s press conference, which will start late followed by a
photo feature on a one armed beer can collector. It’s quite often, “Take these
lemons and make lemonade.” because even when there is absolutely
nothing newsworthy taking place there will be photos in the newspaper the
next day as sure as the sun will come up.


Often the challenge is to find a way to make an interesting photograph,
or photographs, of a subject that is visually boring. This is often the biggest
challenge of the job.


The intern actually has an advantage because she will only deal with the mayor and the beer can collector once. If she stays in the job long enough she’ll shoot the mayor’s press conferences
dozens of times, and the goal every time is to make a photo readers will be compelled to look at. Sometimes you feel as if you lost a bet or you drew the short straw.


I’m not complaining because there are enough instances where I illustrate interesting
stories, see great things and get to go places that the average person never experiences.
It is a really cool profession. I look at the boring assignments as a way of paying it forward for the interesting ones.


A fellow photojournalist once said that his job consisted of little more than shoveling shit
onto the pages of a newspaper. The problem he said is that the shit is just interesting
enough, often enough, that you keep the shovel handy. You just hope not to get it on your clothes.