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The Long Walk of Photography

Aug 14

In Rambling at 7:29am


 I’ve got perhaps the ugliest legs in the world. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were these. I’m actually sorta proud of how shabby their appearance is.

I grew up in an era, photographically, when we just didn’t know any better. We routinely carried 30-40 pound Domke bags around with us on one shoulder, turning spines into S curves, and what might have once been a normal gait into a disconnected shamble. Hell, I even used Anvil cases for a while there. Mishandle one of those getting it out of the trunk and it can snap a shin like dead twig.

These appendages have been operated on three times, had four casts, numerous tears, a couple of breaks, and a couple hundred stitches. I’ve been bitten by dogs three times, once really viciously. And, of course, I’ve put both my knees through the shredder known as thirty-five years of photography. You’re looking at the support structure for a condemned building.

All these damaging shenanigans means that, for quite a while, I’ve ambled about (that’s a generous description) like Walter Brennan. Last year, we finished a long, hard wedding and about 3am I sort of belayed my way down the block towards the studio truck, where Drew and Cali were waiting. Drew remarked, “You look like an old, sad, tired, injured rodeo clown.”

And these are the guys on my staff, who are actually paid to tolerate me. Can you imagine some reactions clients might have had when I did my scrape-thud, scrape-thud into their office? They hire me, thinking they’re getting this versatile, venerable lensman, and Igor shows up. “Walk this way!” All I’m missing is the hump, and I’m working on that.

One of these days, perhaps the knife, though not for now. No real guarantees that afterwards I can resume my side job as an Olympic pole-vaulter. Annie got me a Fitbit bracelet I’ve been wearing lately, which detects your daily travel, and during my last Kelby seminar day I walked over seven miles. And, coming soon, is news of another tough climb. So, I’m still in the game. I opted for the more temporary stay of execution of injections of a synthetic type of WD-40 for my knees, mixed with cortisone. A happy hour cocktail for my joints!

So yesterday they injected this slippery stuff into the structure of both my knees with a large bore needle that looks like they might have swiped it from the turret of a Sherman tank.  (Hence the bandaids in the above pic.) Then the doc hit the plunger and the stuff sloshes in there. I keep thinking it might be like that adherent black goo from Spiderman III, the evil slime that overtook the already dark heart of the Peter Parker’s photo staffer replacement, Eddie Brock, the one who dummied up fake pictures of Spidey slinging bad juju all over town, and got turned into the creepy character, Venom. I wonder if I’ll wake up and my knees will have fangs.

The doc did a great job with the injections, though, admitting as he worked that he really, really hates needles, and can’t stand getting injected himself. I asked him if he’s ever sought counseling about this elephant sized irony sitting in the middle of his life, and he merrily replied no. He did say that his fear of needles makes him an excellent injection specialist, though, ‘cause he’s very sympathetic about what the patient has to endure. Makes sense, actually.

We’ll see if this works, and helps forestall the inevitable consequences of a life trundling around cases of filled with the scrap iron of photo gear. I’ve still got more buildings to climb, and pictures to make, and I’m sure many of them are miles away, but worth walking after. More tk….



89 Responses to “The Long Walk of Photography”

Alan MacRae says:

on August 14, 2013 at 7:45 am

Hope that works for you Joe. Been down that road myself many years ago. Mine was a mix of novocaine and some type of steroidal drug. I don’t think my doctor was anywhere close to as precise as yours with the ultrasound. It was more like taking aim from a mile away…

Ihab Mokayed says:

on August 14, 2013 at 7:53 am

You are definitely one hell of a photographer and a man!

Mark Robinson says:

on August 14, 2013 at 7:56 am

Joe, you tell stories beautifully, imaginatively both with your photographs and your words. You capture thoughts and ideas with a perfect turn of phrase as your capture the moment with the perfect f-stop, aperture and shutter speed. Continue limping along on those support structures, my friend.

Mark Robinson says:

on August 14, 2013 at 7:57 am

Joe, you tell stories beautifully, imaginatively both with your photographs and your words. You capture thoughts and ideas with a perfect turn of phrase as you capture the moment with the perfect f-stop, aperture and shutter speed. Continue limping along on those support structures, my friend.

Miguel Cunhal says:

on August 14, 2013 at 7:57 am

Hope you get better! You still have lots and lots of miles to walk :)

Bernie Campoli says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:03 am

I had a Lumbar Epidurl Spine injection 2 months ago to relive pain inn my right cheek from a pinched nerve in my lower spine,so far so good. Remember Anvil cases,big camera and Video bags,hauling gear for shuttle remotes and dive gear for over 50 years. been walking(no running)swimming,so far so good. BTW last time I saw legs like that they were on one of Jerry’s kids.

Best fellow Nikon user.
Bernie Campoli
Panama City Beach,Florida

Hector says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:07 am

I hope you feel better Joe. My dad had something like that and it helped it a lot. I look foreword to your clicks and training. You and Ansel are my motivation.

Dave Benson says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:07 am

hope it all works… should get you another 30+ years of being a pack mule… is that good or bad news… :-)

Hector Segovia says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:08 am

Wow Joe !!! I hope you feel better now !!!!

Jason Harry says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:11 am

Keep going Joe.

Your a great guy, inspiration to many, fantastic photographer


Paul Timon says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:12 am

Not quite as bad but I started about the same time and know how you feel.

andie bicho says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:17 am

looks like you are on the road for a knee replacement or two. my husband just had one done. not on his top ten of fun things to do, but totally (no pun intended)worth it. Good luck, Andie

corey says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

I feel your pain, Joe–literally. I feel like I am catching a double whammy too: my income is about 50% photography and 50% drumming. I am constantly emptying the truck of photo gear only to replace it with drum cases as I run from one gig to the next. My girlfriend remarked just the other day that my shins look “like they’ve been through a war”. Factor in the wear and tear that 27 years of playing and hauling gear has dumped on me and you’ll understand why, while loading out gear at 3am knowing that I have a 9 am shoot the next day, I frequently wish I played the harmonica instead.

Hope the injections help you out and keep you moving for years to come!

George Howard says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:20 am

I know the feeling. There was a time when I would drop to my knees in a flash for a shot. Now I ponder whether that perspective is really necessary before committing to the pain.

Incidentally, It looks as of those shorts have put in at least as many miles as the legs!

Baart says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:34 am

Well, Joe, do not dance in the ballet ;-)

Barry Braunstein says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

I can relate both to the Marty Feldman comment (one of Mel Brook’s funniest movies) as well as the knees. You might want to get a second opinion – I was getting shots every 6 mos after they drained 90cc’s of fluid fm one knee each visit. Went to another doc who said arthroscopic surgery – went hiking around volcanoes in Hawaii 8 days after the surgery and haven’t needed a shot or drain in 15 yrs…

Paul Papanek says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

I had the same injection (Synvisc, I assume) into my similarly damaged and thrashed left ankle.The doc said that I’d probably be back in about 6 months for another series of shots. That was about 10 years ago I think. I’m a little fuzzy on the exact date because the stuff worked so well that I never went back. I hope that your shots work as well…


Dukes says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

It might help a bit if you took a little time between shoots and shows to actually rest a bit, instead of bounding about like a springbok on speed being chased by a cheetah.

Daniel says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

Your dedication serves as an ultimate inspiration and constant reminder of what it takes to be at the top of the game. In other words, thank you, looking forward to seeing those pictures not yet taken.

art meripol says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:44 am

I feel your pain….literally. I’m at 40 years myself and regret every shoulder bag and every sideline on one knee. But other than my knees and back and wrists and a few other things I’m fine. You will be too.

Rich Graves says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:46 am

I can empathize with you. I have one bad wheel (my left knee ) let us know how well it works and how long it lasts. I’m 52 and my doctor suggested the same thing for me.

Gabe Sturdevant says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:48 am


Thanks for the heads up. Every time one of my joints pops in front of a client, it makes me nervous that they think I’m gonna fall apart in front of them.

If those injections don’t work, theres always knee replacements, just think of how much more you could do if you were the bionic photographer.

Joao Figueiredo says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

Love the blue skirt, and it seems that the fangs are alreadt growing in your toes! eheheheh! good luck with the knees.
maybe you should join Zack Arias and David Hobby and shoot with Fuji X100s. ;)

debbie crafa says:

on August 14, 2013 at 8:55 am

Hey Joe, Your crazy is showing again, you may wanna tuck that in!;)
Truly though, thanks for sharing and I think you have great looking legs!

Jorge says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

What a great confidence in us! With internet filled with triumph, youth, perfection, and flawless wisdom, a man like you, with all your accomplishments, telling us that that his career left him as many success as scars (literally) is a very important lesson. No triumph comes without struggle and scars, and those who think that a muse will take them to palaces of glory without struggle maybe should find another job, or another planet. Rest, take care yourself and recover. Maybe your’re the tired rodeo clown now, but show must go on and you are needed. At last, to save us from the mad bronco, jaja. Seriously, thank you, and recover!!

William Chinn says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:07 am

Best wishes for a quick and painless recovery. Maybe now you can start those “Riverdance” lessons. or RC’s wife can have you dancing in those pictures.

Duane Vigue says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:18 am

I hope it works out for you, Joe. You need to keep making awesome pictures for the rest of us to try and emulate.

Jonathan says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

Joe…having recently spent a glorious week learning from your masterful skills and infinite patience, I can tell you that, as one of your grateful students, you look and act much more like the rodeo bull than the rodeo clown. I am sure everyone who knows you feels the same way, even if it feels differently to you. Keep strong, god’s speed in recovery, and keep making magic with your camera and artful soul. You da man.

Joe Caetano says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:25 am

What sexy legs, Joe! Hope you be better now!

Mike says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:44 am

Put off the knee replacement as long as I could but it’s been done 2 years now and is the best thing I could have done. No pain and I can walk all day, tho’ carrying heavy loads may not be so good.

Bob says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:46 am

Joe – it is never too late to seek a talented physical therapist that will help you attain better muscle balance…orthpaedic only means strait leg…your could use some work…good luck

Fotodog says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:50 am

I feel your pain Joe!

Every one of those bumps and scars is well-earned. You’ve brought us amazing images because of your willingness to trek places that most of us either wouldn’t go, or don’t have the opportunity.

Hope the injections work for you!

keith mcdonald says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

You are preaching to the choir Joe, I am recovering from a double knee replacement (may 13th) . it won’t stop you cold but it will definitely slow your roll. just remember….its just a matter of time :)

Gabe Palacio says:

on August 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

It takes a brave man to put a picture of those legs out on the internet! I remember those anvil cases all too well, especially the time I jackknifed a dolly with a stack in the middle of the doorway of the Beijing airport. Val’s had those knee ejections a few times with great limited success. She gets the shots, goes out to play softball for 2 years, then limps back into the doctor for a new round. Good luck, hope to see you wandering around soon.

lyle says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:08 am

Next step : knee replacements

Take care, you’re a national treasure !

Simon says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:10 am

I am glad that I am not the only photographer with knees that are shot! Just had a ‘Medial Plication’ done on my right knee and I will find out soon if the left is as bad. I hope that the goo works and I trust that your knees don’t have fangs?

Doug Campbell says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:14 am


I assume you were injected with Synvisc. It worked wonders for me. It was supposed to last about 6-12 months but it’s been several years and I still feel almost no pain. Great stuff. Best of luck with yours.

Charlotte says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

hiya Joe, I feel your pain..Im 23 years into a full time photo career and eating NSAID sandwiches, muscle relaxants and epidural steroid injections in my neck and lumbar. Doing what I can to lighten my load gear wise, but keep explaining to my PT that the assistant cant hold the camera when you shoot! not for a pj wedding and event shooter like me! keep the faith Bro!

Tom Bricker says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:23 am

Joe, those are some pretty ugly legs. I recently got a series of injections into my knees hoping to not rely on a cane as much. Unfortunately, I know knee pain since I suffered bilateral femur fractures not long after my twenty-third birthday in a paper mill. The spindle that is supposed to take the paper around took me for a spin. I have matching racing stripes on both knee caps and still plenty of pain that keeps me up at night and will eventually look to knee replacement like NBC’s Brian Williams did recently, but I have perhaps another fifteen years until then.

After the first injection, the next week I felt like my knee was on fire. I’m a couple weeks out from when the injections are supposed to be the most effective. Good luck to you.

Damian Vines says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:31 am

Wish you well Joe! I really love reading your blog, it’s the only one I ALWAYS read. Great stuff ;-)

Kevin says:

on August 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

I have a set of legs that look just that bad and a set of bad knees to match Man must be the career choice huh

John K says:

on August 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

What? Wait, do you mean knee pain isn’t normal?

Hang in there Joe.

Ed Bacon says:

on August 14, 2013 at 11:54 am

I see no reason Drew cannot drive you around in a golf cart.

While my knee issues have been minor compared to those of such a warrior, here are a few things that have helped me. Strengthen one’s quads by simply doing a few leg lifts each day (lie on your back, leg straight, lift and slowly lower 15 times, switch legs, repeat). Use one of those bands under your kneecap that basketball players wear (no, you still won’t be able to dunk). Buy a Theraputic laser, while as costly as a high end camera, great for all kinds of recovery.

Patrik Lindgren says:

on August 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

Well those dont look too shabby, you should see mine. They are a couple of hairy beasts for sure. :)
I hope it will help you out in your chase of more adventures!

Rene Dietrich says:

on August 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm

As a dentist, I truly understand the comment of the syringe doc. I developed a “trademark” for painless injections just because I hated dentists so much as a kid. I know the feeling when the patient has that long gasp of air before I begin working…

jerry dever says:

on August 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Right there with you Joe. Had an injection last week and took my kids with me. I tried not to watch my 7 year old’s face when she saw the needle. It is not going to stop me from playing sports or lugging all my camera gear around with me everywhere I go.

Andor says:

on August 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Hope the treatment will work – wish you a rapid recovery!

Jon Viscott says:

on August 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Thanks for sharing your battle wounds! My new friend is KT Tape. This stuff work miracles and lets me function for the whole day without pain.

Greg Pack says:

on August 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Between my sixth and seventh surgery on my right knee I tried an injection of synvisc … a concoction made from the key ingredient in chicken combs. I had 90 days of relief. My seventh surgery was total knee replacement. Its not bad. I do have to allow extra time at the airport to go through the full body scanner. I braced myself for a strip search. The knee clicks once in awhile, I can’t kneel on it and I can’t run or play tennis. But at least the knee doesn’t hurt anymore.

Iain Anderson says:

on August 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Hey Joe. I’m glad I was alone at work when I read this (7am) – you make the story so vivid I laughed out loud at the “scrape-thud”. Still am.

All the best with your Steve Austin shenanigans. Seriously.

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