I knew I was in trouble when the high-school student I had arranged to meet at a local coffee shop failed to show at the appointed time. About ten minutes past the hour I was about ready to get up and leave, when I saw a young man “peek” around a corner, and retreat back into his seat. I got up and went over to him, and asked his name. He was my appointment.
After the intitial introductions I asked him what he wanted from me. His school wanted him the be an intern for a local professional photographer. It was part of his photography course curriculum, and I applauded the school. As you know many schools, especially at the high school level, have cut their budgets to the degree that there are very few photography departments.
When he told me he wanted to be a photojournalist, I immediately knew he had a lot of work ahead of him, with very little of the benefit to come from his scholarly pursuits. His best lessons would come from hands-on experience.
Very few of the professional photographers I know have made their careers based on what they learned inside brick walls of “higher” learning. They are inquisitive. They have always wanted to know how things work. They have an insatiable need to “find” the next picture. Most of them have a “MacGyver” attitude, meaning that they know how to get things done, with minimal materials.
My student is not outwardly inquisitive. He doesn’t seem to take in his surroundings. When he entered my studio and sat down at the side of my desk I knew I could ask him what he saw on the walls as he walked into the studio, and he would’ve replied that he couldn’t remember. There is no fault here. It is just the way it is.
So, I have some work to do. My first task is to enable “Dave” to open his eyes and become much more aware of the world around him. To be a photojournalist you really need to keep your eyes open wide to your environment… to see things before they happen.
Do you work with students? What is your process? How do you get them toake their first productive steps toward what can be a very rewarding caree choice?