Every assignment in my career has always followed a path which constantly reminders me just how fortunate I am to be a photojournalist. Doors open for me that would forever remain closed if not for the cameras dangling from my shoulders.
Do I sometimes take this for granted? Definitely. Mostly. But sometimes, it dawns on me just how lucky I am.
Quite often, I may only get a glimpse of a person I am to photograph or just a few seconds to say hello before making a few photos. Usually, this is just enough to make everyone happy. I would have liked a few more minutes to shoot and possibly a bit more conversation. The subject would rather have less conversation and much less time taking pictures.
The door was opened but it usually closes pretty quickly on the other side.
As much as I have grown over my career in photojournalism watching and learning from other photographers I work with and admire, I can’t help but wonder how much I have grown as a person from being exposed to the interesting and remarkable people I have covered.
My world has definitely become a bigger and better place from it.
Over the years, a handful of people who were subjects of assignments or PR folks representing these people have gone from just names and phone numbers on an assignment sheet to becoming friends.
A recent assignment photographing Charles Frazier, an American author who wrote Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons and his latest novel Nightwoods, along with his wife Katherine in Asheville, NC was a time when I realized success can happen to normal people and just how lucky I am to make these acquaintances.
Without a doubt, the Fraziers are among the nicest people I have ever met on assignment. Sure, people always want to put their best face on when dealing with the media in general. I get it. When I show up with cameras and gear, it is usually all business. The Fraziers were no different. Charles Frazier had written his third novel and was knee deep in the process of promoting the book Nightwoods. There is a formula to these things and dealing with the media is all part of book publishing as well as promoting movies. In the middle of all of this and dealing with me, both Charles and Katherine were able to take a step out of the publishing promotion circus taking the time to be normal people.
Taken back by the genuine hospitality, I even commented to Mr. Frazier that I could imagine he had a few more pressing matters needing his attention at the moment other than having dinner with an out of town photographer the night before their scheduled meeting. He did have a number of pressing deadlines but he and his wife took a moment from their hectic schedule for a normal dinner out on the town in Asheville.
I could honestly tell that even with all the success, Charles and Katherine were still very much the same people they probably were back in the days when both were teaching and starting to raise a family before Cold Mountain changed their lives forever. Their world suddenly got a lot bigger with that novel with more pressure than I could ever imagine. I really got the feeling that promoting this new book was not just a job for the couple but a deep and personal part of their lives much like watching a child leaving home for the first time.
One of those fun moments that I will always happily recall was standing on the street in Asheville with Mr. Frazier when a truck pulled up to the curb seeking directions. Charles proceeded to give very detailed and courteous directions. The people in that vehicle probably will never know that they were just directed through town to the downtown post office from the 1997 National Book Award-winner who wrote one of the great works of our time Cold Mountain.
I know now why so many people have become so fond of the words written by Charles Frazier. They are genuine and honest just like Charles and Katherine.