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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-04-01

Will Work For Passion
Kevin German left his newspaper job to freelance in Vietnam.

By Kevin German

Photo by Kevin German

Photo by Kevin German

The salt harvest in the southern region of Vietnam.
Sporadic thoughts suffocated my every breath these past few months as I contemplated leaving a staff photography position at The Sacramento Bee. In a troublesome time for the newspaper industry this was a difficult decision to make. I have friends who are losing their jobs due to cutbacks and layoffs, while I decide to leave a completely healthy position on my own accord.

But this decision didn't come from the fear of the decline of the newspaper industry. It came from passion and faith. Faith in myself as a photographer, as an explorer of life.

At the beginning of March I quit my job and moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to work on documentary projects in Southeast Asia. I sold most everything I owned. Car, furniture, you name it. I have never lived abroad, nor have I ever really worked as a full-time freelancer. Yet this move was felt in my gut and I followed my instincts.

Now I want to preface this graph by saying this is not a slam on newspapers or the photojournalists who work for them. I can name one hundred newspaper photographers who excel at their job and more importantly make incredible contributions to communities all over the world. The fact is that newspapers were a comfort for me.

I could go years without ever coming up with my own projects. The assignments kept pouring in like clockwork. Then one day it hit me. I didn't care any more. Didn't care about the people I was photographing. Didn't care about the issues that were important to them. I didn't care. I had sold my soul to be comfortable and I couldn't look myself in the eyes any more.

So I decided to test myself. Purely a test. Never intended it to last longer than a week or two. I began to blog. My first posting was simple,

"My name is Kevin German and this is my blog, of sorts. I am a newspaper photographer looking for inspiration. Looking for passion. Looking for my path. My hope is that my confusion for life and photography will lessen as I write out my thoughts. I welcome feedback, ideas, or just life's wanderings. Thank you."

Photo by Kevin German

Photo by Kevin German

The salt harvest in the southern region of Vietnam.
But what happened hence was unexpected. I found the more I wrote, the more I craved this forum of honesty. Never have I been more brutally truthful than on this blog. I wrote out my fears and my hates. My self-loathing. My downs, my ups. Whatever it was I posted it. It was my public diary. But it was more than that. I held myself accountable for my every action and I was willing to share it with anyone. After all, as a journalist, isn't that what I ask of my subjects every single day? I shouldn't be held at a different standard.

Everything became personal to me. And most importantly my photography became personal to me.

I know this is not new advice. Photojournalists have been telling me to go out and find my own projects for years. But it's not something that can be told. Each of us has to figure it out in our own way.

I can't explain what has filled my being since then. All the fears and uncertainties dissipated with my first picture taken.

I self-assigned myself to photograph the tail-end season of the salt harvest. The light was magnificent as the sun began to set. The farmers worked far into the evening as a giant moon arose to illuminate their actions.

I photographed the way I felt the situation. Blurry, out of focus, there were no rules. I held nothing back. I felt free, as if I could breath for the first time. From thought to fruition, I am doing everything my way.

In this foreign land I feel like a child holding a camera. But I have only one roll of film. My interests are sparked with every sound, smell and sight. Yet I must be diligent and make every frame count.

Photo by Kevin German

Photo by Kevin German

"I photographed the way I felt the situation. Blurry, out of focus, there were no rules. I held nothing back. " - Kevin German
There is so much to learn here. I have already begun. But before I start snapping blindly I want to understand what I am photographing. The time that I take will be slow. Slowly finding my way through this new life. Making my mistakes along the way is what it is all about.

So this is how the story that is my newspaper career ends. Five years is not a long time but it was all I knew. My coworkers at every paper have touched my heart more than they will know. I will always have a soft spot for newspapers. Just some where along the way I became lost. Though I believe you can never truly find your way until you are indeed lost.

No matter the cost always shoot with your heart. Always. Do the work that puts food on the table and pays the bills. But at the end of the day bring that one photograph back for you. It will be your salvation.

My new journey starts now. One filled with passion and hope. The uncertainty no longer frightens me. I embrace it for a new beginning.

A photographer friend asked me the other night if I felt like a lost puppy now. My answer is no. I actually feel more like a convict who has been trapped in a prison that is my own mind for far too many years. And now I am being paroled.

Xin chao ban.


(Kevin German, formerly a staff photographer at the Sacramento Bee, is now freelancing in Southeast Asia based in Vietnam. You can view his work on his Sports Shooter member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/kgerman and at his personal website: http://www.kevingerman.com.)

Related Links:
Kevin's member page

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