As a kid I was once struck by the sight of a long-haired newspaper photographer prowling the edges of my little league ballgame. From my usual spot on the bench I watched him - noting how out of place he looked amid the screaming Moms and Dads. The game was in it's final minutes - every set of my eyes (including his) on the field except mine. But I was thoroughly transfixed by the hippy with the lenses. The way he moved through the crowd, watching the horizon and chewing his toothpick held me in rapture. 'Bet that guy's been places', I thought, 'wonder what he's seen through all that glass?'
From there I was hooked. I soon bought an eleven dollar camera and started hanging around the darkroom at my junior high school. I soon proved to be extraordinarily average behind the lens and eventually moved on to other interests, namely cigarettes, truancy and the opposite sex. Hey, what else are the formulative years for? By the time I first conned my way into a TV job years later, that wandering long-hair with all the zoom lenses was but a faded image in my memory banks. After all, there was too much to learn to question the psychology of my motives. So which filter do I use outside again?
These days I KNOW which filter to use outside, and there are weeks that I foolishly think I've used them on every type of news story there is. That's usually when the pager comes humming to life and I'm off to the races, leaning into the wheel and cursing at my cell phone. Don't worry though, by the time I roll up on scene, I'm one cool customer. No matter the tragedy, stupidity or joy at hand, I'll mill about and take it all in with my thousand yard photog stare. Once in awhile I'll catch sight of some awkward adolescent clocking my every move. Sometimes I stop to talk but more often than not I try not to linger - afraid their pointed questions will stick with me throughout the day.
"How do you work that thing? Do you meet famous people? How much money do you make?"
It's enough to make me think about my friends outside the business. They all have nicer stuff, fancier vacations and more free time than I do. They've already been home an hour or so when I roll in every evening and their yards look better because of it. They have alot more neckties than I do, along with business cards with abstract, wordy titles. It all seems nice until you hear them talk about work, really watch their eyes glaze over as they stare at the dogs on the grill and remark how incredibly soul-sucking their working hours are.
Worse yet, they all think I have the coolest gig on the planet - that I cruise around all day and play with my camera. What are they - dreamy young kids on ballpark benches? They can't fathom the demands of our work, let alone the relentless pace. To them it's all fun and adventure, grab a beauty queen and go play TV...I guess in some respects they're right, for all the headache and deadlines, it's a pretty cool gig. We get a backstage pass to life, and launch countless sorties into hostile and surreal territories. Surely it must beat being Vice President of Staple Arrangement.