If I was asked to categorize myself (btw I hate answering this question), I would say I’m a photographer. Period. Then, I might add that I make my living in the photo genre of landscape and nature, but I’m keenly interested in all genres of photography and I don’t try to limit my experiences, skills or knowledge to a subset of genres. I like them all.
I participate in a couple of photo clubs in my area who regularly bring in guest speakers. No matter what the speaker is talking about, I try to attend because I’m a sponge for information and I believe I should never stop learning.
This past week, one of the clubs hosted Ken Hawkins, someone I hadn’t heard of before. However, as part of the announcement it was said that he was Jimmy Carters photographer for 40 years along with his work for UPI, Life, Time, People, CBS, and many more. My interest was piqued because of the historical time period of his work, his professional credentials and just the fact that he appeared to be a well travelled, well versed, super experienced photographer. He didn’t work in the genre that I specialize in, but that didn’t matter….I figured I could learn something from him, or at the very least enjoy his images and possibly be entertained by his stories.
I’ll cut to the chase…..I sat there for an hour with my mouth hanging open in rapt attention to the images he was showing and the stories of how he got them. This was one amazing photographer and one heck of a great storyteller and a super nice guy to boot.
His history is that he started off as a photojournalist for small papers and then worked his way up in to the national syndicates. He shot the basic journalist stuff and then was traveling to foreign lands to shoot conflicts and compelling stories for all of the major publications. Photographing Coretta Scott King, the civil unrest in this country in the 60’s/70’s, going to Central America to shoot the Sandinistas, photographing Mic Jagger, as a young guy he had his first beer with Janis Joplin and the stories go on and on. He eventually was assigned to photograph Governor Jimmy Carter as he started his run for president. Ken developed a life long friendship with Jimmy and his wife Rosalin that lasts to this day. That friendship afforded Ken the opportunity to shoot images that new agencies didn’t get, intimate scenes of the man, his family and his life before, during and after his presidency. Even though I was pretty young and don’t remember much of the Carter administration, I was enthralled with Kens imagery and how to captured emotions, stories and the “human-ness” of his subjects. Ken has published a book of his Carter images (I bought a copy) and you can find it here. It’s am amazing visual and written collection of images.
I am so thankful that Ken took time out of his busy life to come speak to this group. Even though I’m not a photojournalist, I came away from that presentation with admiration for him and new insights about how photographers can tell stories through their compositions. Even as a landscape photographer I work to tell stories through my images, or at least evoke an emotional reaction in my viewer. So, the lesson to myself and to you my reader….don’t limit or restrict the information or experiences just because it’s not your speciality or passion……photography is an art form and we can learn from all disciplines of this art and bring it in to our own personal style.