I cover movie premieres, concerts, award shows, natural disasters, news and feature stories in New York, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
My earliest memory of photography is taking my mother’s Pentax camera out to take photographs of a particularly bright sunset on our ranch, when a longhorn steer walked into the middle of the frame. It was my favourite photograph for years.
I did photography as a hobby for a number of years but never took it to a serious level until I took a year’s worth of classes at Brooks Institute of Photography. I had to work as a fisherman in Alaska in the summers to pay for the equipment and the schooling, but that also gave me an opportunity to practice what I had learnt in my winter classes.
My first assignment came when I was taking classes in California and a deluge of rain caused a number of landslides and flooding in the area. Most photographers on assignment with legitimate press passes went to a large landslide that had killed a number of people, but I couldn’t get there so I went up into the Ojai Valley and found entire towns under a meter or more of water. I took the photographs to a local newspaper and they were published there.
The assignment that changed my life the most on a personal level was covering the Pope’s visit to New York several years ago, because that was when I met the woman who would later become my wife. Professionally, I would have to say going to Iraq and Afghanistan was especially rewarding. It was a rare chance to show people what a foreign land they cannot easily comprehend was like.
I get excited whenever I can cover a story that allows me to work without restrictions or too many other photographers around. It can be exciting getting a successful picture in a crowd of other photographers, but it’s also extremely difficult and draining at the same time. I definitely prefer being somewhere that people are genuinely curious about and my photos can allow them to learn something new.
My goal when I take a picture is to make an image that is successful both artistically and in getting an idea across to the viewer. I want to pull someone into a story because my image either triggers an emotional response or has such impactful content that they need to learn more.
As a photojournalist you need to trust your own instincts. Sometimes you get stuck reacting to what others are doing, or forcing an idea instead of reading the situation.
It would be silly not to study and learn from all of my peers. I work around so many amazing photographers that I am constantly learning from them
My favourite photographer is probably Sebastiao Salgado. His work is beautiful in a way that just blows me away because of the perfection of the compositions along with the selection of content.
Being a photographer is an amazing job. It has taken me from the Academy Awards, to volcanoes in Iceland, to war zones overseas. It never ceases to amaze me that my job is to go and experience these things and capture them so that others can understand their world better. It is exciting to be recording little slices of the present, hundredths of a second long, that will last forever.