Our first day in DC was full of long strides on shiny sidewalks alongside men and women dressed in dark patterned suits. I hurriedly sipped my coffee, while checking my phone screen with frequency, ensuring I didn’t arrive a minute late to our meetings. We arrived at the Newseum, at 10AM, exploring the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery, a comprehensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs. I then wandered around on my own and went behind the Berlin Wall in an immersive virtual reality experience that took me inside secret tunnels and to the top of a East German guard tower. It was an experience to say the least. Soon, it was time to visit the first company of the week, The Associated Press.
We met with J. David Ake, Deputy Chief of the AP Washington D.C. Bureau. “Don’t start out as one of those $50 dollar assignment photographers,” David stated. This statement stuck with me. The amount of times I’ve done assignments for free or for very little pay than what I was deserved is immeasurable. Either out of kindness or possibly a sense of pity, I’ve always been okay selling my work and skill set for very little, simply because I love being a photographer and will do anything it takes to continue this passion of mine, even if it means getting paid minimum wage. However, with David’s advice, I will most definitely from here on out not be one of those ‘$50 dollar assignment photographers,’ but rather, a photographer whose paid what she deserves. We continued on the discussion of money and photography by suggesting us to take business courses next semester. I will look into it.
Persistence is key in this industry.
Jaclyn, an RIT Alum and now employee of the AP, told us a story about when she applied to 100 jobs and only 2 accepted her. This is a difficult, yet, rewarding career path to get into. “No two days are alike”, Jaclyn proclaimed. In order to beat out the competition you have to be different. You have to have a working knowledge of what you’re shooting, know the gear you’re working with, be open to change and allow for sacrifices to exist in order to get the story. Theres no time to waste when you’re dealing with people and their lives. “You can succeed if you outthink everyone,” said David.
Next up, NPR.
Prior to visiting, I did extensive research on this company. I was anxious to hear what they had to say in terms of interactivity and storytelling and what their hopes and dreams are for the future of journalism. Thankfully, Nikki and Emily did no disappoint. Much of the roundtable was taken up by a powerpoint presentation, however it had many thoughtful and interesting links to work NPR is currently creating. One of their goals is how to bring their Tiny Desk Concert Series audience onto their main NPR webpage, I found this idea of audience and click-bait to be interesting and is ultimately also part of this industry. Our photos and videos are not for us, we need to learn to not be so protective of them. They’re for others to see, to learn, to witness, to understand; this is something I am still learning and struggling with.
Last stop: Reuters.
We met with Editor in Charge of the Washington Bureau Jim Bourg, and Senior Photographer Jonathan Ernst at the Reuters HQ. They emphasized that it is important to be engaged and inspired within this business. Jim hinted at some interview questions he often asks new employees like ‘what other photographers inspire you’ and ‘based on their style why and why not do you like them’? Both Jim and Jonathan photograph the President on a daily basis for Reuters and often edit each others work. It is very important to have a good editor-photographer relationship, and one that can last a lifetime is rare and inspiring.
I asked the question, what stories are you hoping to see in the future? And I was pleased with the answers. All companies stated they’d like to see more humor in their stories, rather than presenting sad ones all the time. I feel like we don’t tell enough stories about people who are passionate. People who have have a drive to get things done and become someone or something. These are the stories I want to tell.