or go here for the not-anonymous Anonymous
Following on from Luca Sage in the Dos and Don'ts is Anonymous. Always good is Anonymous.
My first job working as a photographer was in the world of journalism: a small weekly paper liked my simple black and white photographs, as well as my eager attitude, and hired me to shoot simple assignments for them. I was newly out of college where I mainly studied art…I never did take one journalism class, but here I was, now a working journalist.
More than in any realm of photography, photojournalism has a long history of rules and regulations, all in an attempt to level the playling field and allow the practice to have some form of legitimacy and credibility.
I was aware of none of these rules.
Over the course of the job, I broke every rule imaginable:
Mis-represented myself to various law enforcement and security officials to gain access to a property
Used drugs and alcohol to gain access and acceptance to a wide variety of subjects, both high brow and low brow.
Experimented with in-camera and darkroom multiple exposure techniques to cover a full range of stories.
Befriended and regulary socialized with the subjects I was supposed to keep at a journalistic distance
Ignored courtroom restrictions on when one could and could not make a photograph
The list could really just go on and on, and never did I really think to ask of any of this behavior was un-acceptable. Only when caught, and I was caught on a regular basis, where these actions explained to be gross violations of the rules. I just kind of shrugged and promised not to do it again.
The positives of this behavior? I think it allowed my work to have a raw energy and sense of intimacy that people responded to greatly. The photographs created at the time consistently dominated the local journalism competitions and appeared in national anthologies as well. For the first time, I thought I was a local photographic rockstar. These photographs kicked ass.
The negatives of this behavior? Let me list them here:
I successfully ostracized myself from every working photojournalist in the town, people who I had a great deal of respect for.
I consistently was excluded from any photojournalism convention on a local level.
I endured outlandish tales of misinformation bubbling up from the local university, about how I created my work, always trickling down third hand, and always being wildly off base.
A formal hearing led by the local press association, proposing that a local journalism award I had won be taken away from me due to the use of darkroom compositing. Somehow I retained the award.
And this was from the journalistic community.
From the world at large? My attempt to befriend and party with some sketchy characters in a sketchy part of town led to me being held at gunpoint as all my gear was ceremoniously taken from me. All of this going down in a neighborhood that was so challenged, the cops had long ago stopped responding to calls.
The question is…did the work benefit from ignoring of these rules? Absolutely. Even my outsider status amongst my peers fueled me, as disappointing as it was. I wanted to prove that these photographs were important, and these rules were simply speedbumps on the path to making fascinating photographs. I was young and hungry and it wasn’t my time to be generous….I didn’t even know what that was. But as I left that job, left that town, packed in a U Haul, I did hope for the ability to find, or create, the community I never had in journalism. And the first step for that, was to create my own rules.