Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Happy Anniversary.

It was seven years ago yesterday, October 24, 2000, that I started at working for the twice-weekly Maryland Gazette, a Capital-Gazette Communications newspaper. Two years later I made the jump to the Gazette's sister paper The Capital, the daily paper, where I am currently. It has been a good seven years with both ups and downs.

I believe I have grown as a photographer over the last seven years. I am still working to get better at the craft and think I learn something new every day. It is a never-ending education and inspiration is everywhere. Just because I have been doing this professionally for 12 years does not mean that there is not more to learn.

I love the Anne Arundel County, Md. area. Baltimore to the north, Washington DC to the south, so much to see, do and shoot. I took the job at the Maryland Gazette so that I could be close to my then beautiful girlfriend, Jennifer, who is now my beautiful wife. She is also the editor of this blog, making me appear to be a better writer than I am. I was lucky to get a job that not only brought me closer to my now wife, but to an area I really enjoy.

Who knows what the next seven years will bring with the way the newspaper industry is changing. I can only hope that they will be as great as the last seven.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Survivor's Memories

I had the privilege of shooting a portrait of Dr Joseph Taler, a survivor of the Nazi invasion of Poland during World War II, on Tuesday. With help from the Polish Christian Underground, he changed his name to Joseph Skwarczynski and, with forged documents, worked for the railroad during the war. Meanwhile, he was hiding his father in a small apartment.

He lived his secret life until the Soviets forced the Nazis from eastern Poland. In 1950, he and his wife made their way to the United States.

This was the kind of assignment I would have liked to have more time to shoot, if only to listen to Dr. Taler’s stories. But I had four assignments on that very hectic day. I got there at 2 p.m. as planned and check out his home for a possible location.

A small table in the living room would serve as the setting for his portrait. I had him sit at the table and show me his mementos from his life. He showed me pictures of his family and of him in his youth. The two books he wrote. Copies of many of the forged documents, emblazoned with the Nazi swastika, which helped save his life. All of these would help tell his story in my photograph.

As we were setting up, he showed me a picture in one of his books. It was of him and his friends as kids dressed as American Indians. He told me that they would play “Indians” as kids. Naturally, I had to ask, “Where are the cowboys? Didn’t you play cowboys and Indians?” He replied, “Cowboy outfits cost too much; all we needed was a feather to play Indians.” There they were, a group of kids, feathers sticking out their headbands, playing a game of “Indians.” All having fun, but little did they know what would be coming a few years later.

I shot a simple portrait. One off camera flash to the left, bounced off the ceiling. Available light was coming in from a big sliding glass door on the right. I was only there for about a half an hour, but in that time I again realized how lucky I am to have been born in the USA. How I should think about Dr. Taler next time I am complaining about one of lives little setbacks and compare them to the real tragedies in the world. I guess my little problems are not that bad.