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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-10-03

'Turning the camera on yourself'
Greg A. Cooper thinks we should like having our picture taken.

By Greg A. Cooper, Brooks Institute

Photo by Greg A. Cooper

Photo by Greg A. Cooper

Dave LaBelle conflicted over making images or catching baseballs during batting practice prior to a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angles, Calif., Tuesday evening, May 20, 2008. The Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-2.
Oh boy, here he goes again… yet another story about going through archives!

The other day I was having a conversation with David LaBelle. He was commiserating with me about going through his personal history in boxes of old photographs, books, files and memorabilia that has been collected since each of us began photography.

"Sorting through boxes of prints, some unopened in 20 years, is emotionally draining for me, LaBelle shared. "Along with the black and white images of a carefree dreamer are photos of a troubled soul, tortured by too many bad decisions. Some of it is just too painful to look at," he admitted.

But there were some fun surprises as well.

During his foraging, LaBelle found a picture of my college roommate, Ray Meese Jr. along with another classmate of ours from our days at Western Kentucky University and me. Looking at this photograph reminded me of how fun life can be in the "up" times. However, looking at work from years past has also reminded me of how precious these fleeting moments are.

During my archive dive (still ongoing, in case you are wondering), I have come across some work that was long forgotten. At the time these images were made, mainly the personal work, I never gave much thought to the importance of the moment. It was just myself with a camera - usually a point and shoot - making images of the fun moments at parties with friends and family or during my adventures as a young photojournalist.

It was this one image from October 1997 in Jeffersonville, NY that stood out – Eddie Adams walking around his barn during the workshop surveying the scene, taking in the sites of the attendees, faculty and staff enjoying the clear, crisp fall day in Upstate New York. Wanderlust probably convinced me to make the image. After all, that’s "the" Eddie Adams standing right in front of me! Ten years later, Eddie is no longer with us and I have an image of one of my idols. The image is even more important to me now because it helps me remember my experience at Barnstorm, and it’s a record of a man who made a significant contribution to our industry and to humanity.

Looking back on that image and that moment makes me appreciate the importance of documenting, not only society, but our peers, friends and family as well. We not might think much of them now, but what about tomorrow? Not being able to predict the future, we are unsure what images to keep and what ones to toss. If I knew, back when I was a kid, that the vintage 1979 aluminum Star Wars lunch box with ceramic liquid container would be worth a lot of money some day, I would have never used it. I would have put it in a box and stored it in my closet.

Photo by Greg A. Cooper

Photo by Greg A. Cooper

Eddie Adams looks on at the Eddie Adams Workshop, Barnstorm X, Jeffersonville, New York, circa Oct., 1997.
Experience has taught me to value what is in front of me right now and to never take life for granted. And honoring those around us should be a core value. Dave Mathews said it this way in his song Jimi Thing: “What I want is what I’ve not got, but what I need is all around me.” It is the part of life right in front of me that I value, my friends, peers and family.

Consider making images of your peers – working and during fun times. Learn to appreciate these important images both now and later.

Sports Shooter allows us to share personal images with our community, they call it ‘Fun Pix,’ (http://www.sportsshooter.com/funpix_index.html) and it is one of my favorite features of the site. Even though I haven’t contributed in a while, I do look daily to see what images fellow members have added.

Besides making images of your peers, don’t be afraid to have your image made, too.

I realize some photographers don’t like having their picture taken. And no doubt they have many reasons.

"It is humbling to see ourselves in pictures, LaBelle says. "It’s like standing naked in front of a mirror. We see ourselves as we are, as others see us, instead of how we see ourselves in our mind. The mirror tells the truth, it shows the reality."

Perhaps that is one of the reasons photographers don’t like to see images of themselves?

But since we ask our subjects to subject themselves to a level of truth the camera provides, shouldn’t we be subjected to that same level?

I’ve added a private gallery to showcase more ‘Fun Pix’ of my friends and peers in the field: http://www.sportsshooter.com/gregcooper/funpix


(Cooper teaches photojournalism in the School of Visual Journalism at Brooks Institute in Ventura, Ca. His SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/gregcooper.)

Related Links:
Cooper's member page
Brooks NPPA

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