Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I want to go to New York.

I want to go to New York.

While I was in journalism school in the late 80's, National Geographic was the Holy Grail of photojournalism. It was, to me at the time, the pinnacle of a photojournalists career. I could look at National Geographic magazine for hours, just imagining the journey which brought the photographers to those moments. I wanted to be them. I wanted to travel to the out of the way places, see the most extraordinary things, and meet people from around the world. I wanted to see what they were seeing.

I read today National Geographic is opening it's archives to the public and having an exhibit in New York City. One hundred fifty prints out of the thousands that must be in the archives beneath the National Geographic office in Washington, D.C. All those fantastic images, some never seen before, right there in New York City.

I remember when Tom Kennedy, director of photography at National Geographic, came to talk to my photojournalism class at the University of Florida. Kennedy is a UF grad. He showed us some of the projects which hadn't yet been published in the magazine. I felt so privileged. I thought, I really thought, if I tried hard enough and got just a little lucky - I would be working at National Geographic in a few years.

For years, I was sending my portfolio to all these papers - the Orange County Register, The St. Petersburg Times, and the Miami Herald thinking they would be a good stepping stone to Nat Geo. I got good at managing frustration after reading rejection letters. I think it's why I still run. I would run every time I got a rejection letter. But I just kept thinking that one day I'll be leaving my apartment in D.C. to get on a plane to Afghanistan to photograph monks or Denmark to shoot the fjords.

Well, twenty-one years later, I am still at my first photo job. Do I wish I had landed that job with Nat Geo? Sure, but I didn't. Neither did thousands of other photographers. As I understand it, National Geographic no longer employs any staff photographers. But I am still doing what I love and I'm surrounded by friends and family, and I love what I do.

I still wish I was grabbing my passport and heading off to photograph miners in South Africa or something. But I do like getting home at the end of the day, collapsing on my couch, and talking to my best friend, walking my dog to the mailbox to look for the National Geographic. I still flip through the magazine to see the photos. They still have spectacular images and I am still inspired every time I see the images from all over the world.

How much are plane tickets to New York?

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