Sorry for the lapse of missives, but I been in the mix. In The Mix: that’s el Ocho speak for working with a reporter - a normal enough status for most photogs. But when you’re a wordy burnout with A/V skills and antisocial tendencies, In The Mix ain’t where you want to be. Still, the ratio demanded it, for no sooner had the November book ended than certain rogue news shooters went on something called ‘vacation‘. Before I knew it, I’d been pressed into service; ripped unceremoniously from my soft news foxhole and reassigned to the front. There I slogged through a series of stories deemed worthy of a two-person crew; packages that made loud splashes at the top of their newscasts, only to ripple into oblivion by the second commercial break. A homicidal babysitter, a waffling college coach and a pulled-over van full of illegal aliens; just a few of the kooky cast of newsmakers I put on tee-vee during a weeklong stint I‘ve already mentally erased. But that‘s the secret, right?
Pierce the leathery hide of a streetwise photog and you’ll find a thick layer of insouciance. That ability not to care is accrued over time. Once, I couldn’t abide the sight of fluttering crime tape without widened eyes and a quickened pulse. Now, I can sleepwalk past midnight collisions with little more than unadulterated slumber on my mind. I’m not particularly proud of my cynicism, even if it burnished to a high sheen. How I might act had I chosen a dairy route over deadline slaying I do not know, but something tells me I’d daydream about lighter fare. Instead, my head is full of half-eaten soundbites, deadpan faces with silly microphone flags under their chins and pictures of victims frozen in mid-dissolve. Sure, cops have even darker portfolios, but for the paltry bank I bring down, ther margins of my mental ledger are smudged enough. Melodramatic? Perhaps, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned feeding the beast is to keep moving, lest you get any on you.
Truly, I spent much of last week trying to keep up with the other news brutes out there. Fussy bluster aside, I’ve grown a bit soft in the first year of my forties. Whereas every other photog I know logs serious time behind the wheel of a parked live truck, I cruise around in Unit 4 while sorting through clichés. No wonder my fellow camera-ops scoff when they see me roll up in some single-masted vessel. ’Dude may talk a mean game on-line, but he sure cranks out a lot of fluff, I don’t hear them say. I smile anyway, knowing they’d all talk smack if I covered nothing but clans of amorous cannibals - for wit and spittle is to be expected from anyone with one eye closed and a tiny speaker wedged in their ear. It’s not unlike the outlook of a veteran street cop, who winces at the sound of glass crashing and tries to look the other way. It rarely works, but you kid yourself there’s an end somewhere in sight. Until then, you sift through grim bits of silliness one shift at a time and hope something redeeming will soon wander before your lens.
Just don’t hold your breath.