Month: September 2009

Excellence, Commitment To

I had a great experience today. I can’t say much about it until the story runs in a few months, so I’ll just tell you what I can. Sorry, no photos this time.

I was sent to a small business with an international reputation for its commitment to excellence and hard work. (No, it wasn’t the Oakland Raiders.) This company does not advertise and does not accept walk-in customers. It succeeds by being singularly focused on perfection and quality. It is so high-end that even its clients are at the top of their respective fields.

At this business there are no excuses. Only hard work that pays off in tangible results. That really fired me up. Their mentality was infectious and I jumped right into it, starting to shoot.

I cleared my mind of everything but the process, putting all distractions aside. I didn’t check my e-mail, I didn’t answer my phone, and whenever my aging equipment caused me to miss a shot I simply moved on to the next moment putting aside anything beyond my control.

When it was over I walked out feeling… no… realizing that anything is possible. For the first time in a while I waded into the edit taking my time and looking at each photograph as if it had the chance to be a masterpiece.

I wish you could have been there to see these people who take life by the throat and never compromise or surrender. I left the place feeling invigorated and refreshed, and ready once again to focus on quality over quantity.

Let’s hope my regained sense of pride in the craft can survive exposure to the real world.

I guess that’s up to me, isn’t it?

The Busiest Liquor Store

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You know that photo on the front page of the newspaper? Sometimes this is how it comes together…

The assignment: The busiest of Utah’s state-owned liquor stores.

Time of shoot: 10:30am on a Tuesday. I’m wondering, are people buying a lot of booze early Tuesday morning?

I walk in and introduce myself. The clerks go, “This isn’t the busiest store!” I look around and sure enough, the large store is empty.

Concerned, I call in. An editor: Don’t worry about the busiest store angle. The story’s about a report on liquor sales. You’ve got time to work it. It’s for the front page.

The phone in the store rings ten minutes later. It’s someone from the newspaper calling to let them know that a photographer would be coming in this morning. We all laugh.

One of the clerks won’t be photographed so I’m down to one subject. I start following her around working every angle I can think of. As often happens when I show up somewhere to photograph busy, it’s eerily slow. She says, “It’s usually busier than this.”

The office calls. Something has come up and they need me downtown pretty soon.

Since this one was for the front page and there wasn’t much to work with I send in eleven shots. Way more than normal.


The story goes live on our website with five of the eleven photos in an automatically-generated photo gallery.

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No one at the paper notices that all five photos in the gallery show the same clerk stocking the shelves. Only the angles are different.

A reader left this hilarious comment:

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And another:

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By the time those comments appear on our site I’ve already been rushed through two other assignments. More and more that’s the way it is.

A Happy Accident

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Last week the Utah News Photographers Association announced the winners of the 2009 Photojournalism Competition. The quality of work coming out of the Utah photojournalism community is at the highest level I’ve ever seen. So many talented people and so many amazing photographs.

Oh, I know. You’re wondering what the photo above is, right? It’s a photo I took from my car while driving through a blizzard. I liked the colors and it was clearly a different photograph so I entered it in the Pictorial category which is all about light and color and art. The photo took third place, with judge Damon Winter (a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with the New York Times) saying, “Just an interesting image, minimal and clean, a happy accident with wonderful mood.”

It’s also one of those photos that, when announced as a winner, results in silence from the audience. You can almost hear everyone thinking, That photo won? Sure enough, at least one other winning entry also silenced the room. Thankfully, it wasn’t mine.

One year I took first place in feature photo and when the photo came up on the screen a colleague yelled out, “What the hell is that?”

Other winners for me from the UNPA this year:
Illustration Second place, “The School Play”
Photo Essay Honorable Mention, “Raid on Polygamy”

You can see all the winners (from this year all the way back to 2001) at the Utah News Photographers Association’s new site, by clicking here: