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|| News Item: Posted 2008-12-21

My Top 5 Cool Things for 2008
By Matt Mendelsohn

Photo by Matt Mendelsohn

Photo by Matt Mendelsohn

Alexandra Mendelsohn
5. I had not one but two op-ed pieces in the New York Times this year, not such an easy feat for a member of a profession normally maligned for its grammatical prowess. As a closeted writer for a long time, I was nervous at the prospect of submitting the first story, a humor piece about candidates and their always-wise, blue collar fathers. Even more so, perhaps, since I have a brother who's a big writer in his own right and has bylines in The New Yorker. But I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained and sent the darn thing in. It showed me that nothing is out of reach, no matter how many walls we put up in our minds. And the kicker was that at the end of the piece, which was nuzzled on the page between Maureen Down and William Safire, the tagline read, simply, "Matt Mendelsohn is a photographer."

4. I was on the receiving end of photojournalism for a change. Specifically, the Washington Post was doing a story on the lack of mid-week day games at the new Nationals stadium---there were none this year---and they photographed me and my five-year-old daughter watching the game. It was beyond cool to pick up a newspaper and see the two of us on the front of the sports section, even in a one-column photo. As photographers, I bet a lot of us don't realize how thrilling it is for our subjects to have that fleeting moment of fame. (What I didn't tell the Post is that Alexandra always makes me buy her an $8 hot dog only to throw the meat on the ground and eat the bun.)

3. The election, of course. We are a country that still represents hope and possibility to people all over the world, not one which tortures people in secret locations. That we got so far from the former and so intertwined with the latter during the past 8 years is truly a shame. Bring on 2009!

2. I finally switched back to Nikon, my first camera love, after a long Canon period. And I didn't do it just so Ron Taniwaki would buy me dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse every time he was in town. Well, maybe just a little. Okay, that was the main reason. But still, it's nice to get things in focus again, even if the back focus button is a tad too far to the left for my comfort. But those D3 files!! Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll have the Cowboy Ribeye, Ron, with the cream spinach and baked potato.

1. I was sitting on my fat tush on election night eating chips. Close to midnight I threw some clothes on and ran out the door, not knowing exactly where I was going or what photo I could still make. I ended up at the Lincoln Memorial with 26 other folks. I shot as they listened in the drizzle to President-elect Obama's victory speech. Turned out to be a neat decision, as you may have read in last month's issue. The moral of the story: news is a part of us. We may move up or down in life, sideways or backwards, but we can't shake it. I'm glad that I was able, even unwittingly, to teach myself that lesson.

I'd like to wish all of you the happiest of holidays, particularly Bert and Brad and the rest of the Sports Shooter Gang. As Bert likes to say, Mahalo!

(Matt Mendelsohn is a Washington, D.C. photographer who writes about photography on his blog, "The Dark Slide" He formerly worked as a staff photographer with UPI and as a picture editor at USA TODAY and USA Weekend. He owes all he knows about ordering Dim Sum to Robert Hanashiro and Ronal Taniwaki.)

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