I could have continued, and done, you know, Raves for a Couple of Daves, or, These Daves are Faves, or…..well, you get the drift.
When I got into this business, my aims were pretty simple. I wanted to do some cool pictures, and make my pix decent enough to enjoy the respect of my peers. Pretty straightforward. I remember wangling a student credential to the 1976 Democratic National Convention in NYC, and getting in there in the limited way I could, with my Nikkormat and a couple of lenses. I was overawed, not by Carter-Mondale, or the convention itself (though Barbara Jordan was pretty cool) but by the shooters. These guys were pros. Big time. I didn’t know any of them of course, but I had heard of them. I couldn’t believe I was watching Wally McNamee and Danny Farrell work, for instance. Completely unflappable. Kept their eye in the damn camera while the whole world was crashing down and people were shouting and shoving and just in general gettin’ pretty wild eyed. (And this was not D3, auto focus, auto exposure, auto white balance, auto registration of your images with the Library of Congress, auto park the car and walk the dog territory. This was the days of the F, F2 if your paper was fancy, with lenses darker than Fanghorn Forest and focus rings so stiff you needed a crescent wrench to crank ‘em.) Still, they would just shoot, and nail it.
Now, fast forward 30 plus years, and I’ve gotten to know a whole bunch of great shooters, and call them friends. I wrote a paper about Jay Maisel in school, for instance, and now I call him friend. (He calls me a bunch of different stuff, which is cool with me.) It’s one of those gifts continuing to endeavor in this field gives you, along with the knee surgeries, the nights alone in places by the side of the highway, and the continuing angst over when the next good frame will come your way, and how the hell you gonna pay next month’s (make it this month’s) Amex. But that is for blogs tk.
[More after the jump]
I call David Hobby and Dave Black friends. And mentors, and shooters, and legends, and teachers, and…well, not to get too overblown about it, keepers of a certain kind of trust and history.
David Hobby (better known as Strobist to about a million photogs out there) has defined an amazing new role in this digital age, that of community builder. I was blessed that he felt strongly about The Moment It Clicks, and spoke in heartfelt fashion about it.
We’ve talked a bit over email, and both of us hearken back to that time at newspapers and wire services when deadline would hit, and the staff would be back at the wet darkroom, sloshing film through hypo and printing wet negs as 5:30 closed in and giving each other a ton of shit and a brief oral history of their day in the field. Tips and tricks were exchanged, Tri-x frame numbers were picked with an Agfa loupe by fluorescent light, and when the deadline passed, the bar was around the corner, and the conversation continued. Young photographers learned, and grew. Competition for space in the paper intensified everybody’s efforts in the field. Big stories became team efforts, with bags of film being thrown from platform trucks rolling with the motorcade, and motorcycles buzzing and copy kids hitting the subway. (Hell, during a Papal visit to NY the Times even enlisted the NY Road Runners club to network a bunch of their strong marathoners to run film bags back to the paper, so scared was everybody of the city just locking up, traffic wise.)
Things change. That’s all gone, and some of the memories are certainly more fun than the experiences actually were. But the point is that training ground is gone, too. I have always told young shooters to get an internship at a paper, it is the best training there is. But one young assistant did that a few summers ago, at a major metro shop, and spent the summer there, and did not meet 70% of the staff. Makes sense. Assignments come and go via email now. Gone are the days of going to the picture desk and raiding the feature/futures file to see what press conference might have a freebie lunch that day, as some of the gang at the Daily News did.
David has replaced that back-at-the-shop mentoring process with his blog and the lessons contained therein. It is a non-stop, wide open faucet of information, daily, so strong and constant that an entire network has grown up around it. Strobist groups meet around the country, and share pictures and ideas at a fierce rate. It’s cool, and David, by being free with his time and knowledge, has done what all shooters really want to do… have impact. Real, serious impact. He changed the deal, used his site as a go to source, re-defined what it is to know about light, and gave us all back a big chunk of something that has gone missing–community.
Dave Black has done the same thing. His history as a shooter of record in the sports community has grown, really, as he has rolled up all that road time and thirty years of his graceful eye in the lens into the Workshops at the Ranch, his far reaching web site. We have taught together many times, as he has noted, a bit like Penn and Teller, goofy to be sure, and certainly not as funny. (He has definitely heard some of the wackier stories in Clicks a few times.) But his capacity to instruct, and the range of his knowledge, from how to light an arena to how to light a cowboy with a Maglite or an ice locked canyon with a 15 million candle power bazooka of a flashlight, is extraordinary. So is his generosity.
I give their sites out at every workshop I teach. In the fragmented, often isolated digital ether where we shoot ones and zeros instead of a strip of acetate, they have given us all an anchor, a weigh station. It is cool, and even cooler to call them friends.