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My earliest memory of photography is watching my father with his Rollei. I remember looking through the viewfinder where the world was upside down and backward, then spending time with him in the darkroom seeing him develop those images. The world shifted, right side up. It was magic and still is.
I wanted to become a photographer because I wanted to document my vision of the world - to document everyday events and everyday people; to let people experience the events going on around them; to be a witness and record these events.
My first assignment happened when my grandmother’s house went up in flames. I was staying over that night as my aunt and uncle had come for a visit. My uncle ran out to the backyard and grabbed the garden hose to try to put out the flames on the back staircase. I took photos of him doing this. I went to the local paper who said it would have been front page, had it been in colour. I don’t even remember being paid but I do remember seeing my name under that photo. I learned to keep colour film in my camera after that. The firefighters saved the house, not the back staircase.
The assignment that has left the biggest mark on me was in 2014, when I was sent out to Moncton, New Brunswick where five Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers had been shot; three were killed. The heightened sense of adrenaline and emotion that was coursing through the town as they tracked down the shooter and dealt with the funerals will stay with me forever. I found a small story of a young boy who had been saved by one of the fallen officers. It was a moment that I wanted to share with others. I will also never forget the RCMP K-9 officer’s dog that seemed to cry for his partner during the funeral. I can see the photo and hear him still.
I love assignments where I get to travel and experience new things. I love features and human interest stories. I think everyone has a story to tell, and to be invited in and allowed to share those stories is a privilege.
I think photojournalism is important for us to keep in touch with our humanity. To know there are real people behind these disasters and conflicts as well as everyday events.
I don’t think I have an actual audience in mind when I take photos. I become focused in capturing the moment and hopefully illustrating the story. I guess I figure, if I like, others will too.
My biggest lesson has been, always be early. So many of the best moments happen before an event is due to begin.
My advice to any photojournalist starting out now would be to do internships. It is such a great opportunity to learn from the best, experience events and make contacts.
I’m proud to work alongside some of the most talented photographers in the world. I respect our editors who work behind the scenes at so many of our major events and make us look better by picking out significant photos. I think I most respect anyone who has the courage to pursue their dreams and stay true to their passion and vision and are willing to share them.
I think photojournalism will be more important than ever. The platforms are shifting and there is a need to embrace new technologies but hasn’t that always been part of our job. It never has been easy and not one of us got into this profession for the money.