That time I covered a Funny or Die event at the SXSW festival. The big names were there – Zach somebody, a guy named Seth. Most people seemed to be stressed yet trying oh-so-hard to not seem stressed. A contrast of laughing, silly faces, and stern, hard, guarded faces. A feeling of stifled sadness, forced laughter. Thick throngs of people, red beating lights that made your head dizzify, drinks that coached you keep going a little longer, adorable bartenders whose smiles made you realize how they got their jobs, bleak muddy rains that somehow didn’t deter the hundreds of people on that tiny city lot.
I came away knowing a few things that I hate: I hate what tabloid paparazzi have done to people’s notions about photographers. I hate that the fact that when I am documenting an event, whether it is a portrait session, a wedding, or a premier, there are people who will chuckle and make a side-handed comment about my being a paparazzo. I hate the fact that there are people who will refuse to look me in the eye and automatically sterotype me as “paparazzi”, a soulless, exploiting, vicious parasite – a word that has it’s roots in an Italian word meaning, “buzzing insect”.
I also came away knowing what I want. I want to connect with people. I want to capture moments and looks that speak to the viewer long after that moment is forgotten. I want to be wholly accepted (not just allowed) into a situation as a friend, who photographs – not held at bay as a threat. I want a relationship with the people I photograph – I frequently find that a relationship with my clients helps me create a much more iconic, lasting image that communicates who the client (couple, teenager, actor, whoever) is, what their personality and/or dynamic is like.
And I came away knowing that I love photojournalism – capturing an event for those who couldn’t be there – taking my duty seriously to bring others eyes to a moment, an unpretentious, naked moment so they can see what my eyes saw.
That March night a month ago, here’s what I saw.