Sometimes you just do not want to be finished. Sometimes you could just roll on along. For awhile longer. Just a bit more.
This is the second time I have had an assignment from National Geographic to do a story on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Back in the late 80′s I did an overall coverage of the outer banks . However, this essay is personal. Plus I will do the text. OBX is an example of both the best and worst of man’s use of a fragile environment. Honestly, it would probably best if nobody lived on these constantly moving shores. Home to folks who have just decided that just where they shouldn’t be is just where they wanna be. Misfits, fishermen, surfers and pirates. Folks like me.
I think you are looking at around 40 photographs above which represents the final editing. Down from thousands of clicks to the 40 picks we will show tomorrow. This 40 will then come down even further to about 12 that will be published. The result of two years off and on photographing right from my front porch. Sometimes literally. I have traveled around this lonely planet quite a few times for NatGeo….my university to the world….the only real education i have. My official formal education is imperfect…Yet the life of steeping in a subject is more than perfect.
This recent work on my life by the sea will be presented to Chris Johns, Editor NatGeo, on Thursday. Presentations at NatGeo are hard to describe. So much is riding on these shows that anyone who did not say they were more than nervous when getting ready to present would be lying. Months of work is being decided on. Stories can die right at this meeting. I have had stories killed. Nothing personal. The story might just not work. Everybody, the very best, have had work which needed help or hit the cutting room floor so to speak.
Rare air has its price.
What I want to do this week and part of next on Burn is to meet the decision makers. The editors. The ones who decide who gets an assignment , who does not, and why. Chris Johns is a super pro NatGeo photojournalist and natural history photographer who is now THE Editor of the Magazine. The first pro photographer to hold such a position. I will interview Chris for you next week. Maybe he will even answer a question or two for you, but I cannot promise. During the upcoming days I will introduce you to several editors starting with Senior Photo Editor Sarah Leen who is the editor for my OBX story and also an example of a long time NG field photographer who six years moved inside to make a difference. Sarah is a mentor for many photographers. Both emerging and established alike.
Photographers always work hand in hand with a picture editor at NatGeo. Someone who watches over the whole process. This editor works closely with the photographer helping with research, coordination with the writer, and a support to the whole visual side of the story all the way through the layout process. To make sure there is a usable coverage, to make sure the creative juices are flowing , in effect a “coach” a “guide” a “director” to help the photographer just get it done. No small task. This varies from photographer to photographer and from story to story depending on many factors.
I will let the editors tell you how THEY think about it.
I feel good about this down home story. A personal diary of sorts. My best pictures? I always think I should have done better. I just feel good about having a chance to give some a taste, a compelling reason for why I feel exhilarated by this land. Yes, this land, this sand, this drifting dune I have chosen after banging around the world to hell and gone.
After doing the Rio book bit online, I realized how fascinated people are by the process. The motives. The USE of photography becomes way way more important than the photography part of photography. See my best explanation of process here. For real. www.theriobook.com
Anybody can speak the photographic language now, as we use any commonly spoken language, yet alas there are only a few poets among all the correctly speaking. So I love these new challenges , these new ways of telling the stories we all want to hear.
Technology changes fast, yet surely the desire to hear or see or feel an amazing recollection, a compelling story, a colorful representation, a honest portrayal, will not change.
In an effort to give this audience what I think is the most educational things we can do here on Burn , I will do more process stories. Stories about who did what and how in hell they did it. Stories about the decision makers from several top magazines and newspapers Starting now with NatGeo , but moving soon to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones, and on and on to give you some insight into the process for contemporary print and online magazines in terms of commissioning work. Talking to editors who are looking for the next super talents.
Burn will always be stories told from this audience and from legends alike. The same mix of 75% emerging photographers, 25% icons will roughly hold. We will do more commissioned assignments leading towards Burn 03 (later in 2012) and I think all of you know there will be a Burn show in Sydney, Australia paralleling the opening of One Night In Rio at the Australian Center of Photography in May of 2012.
I have way more to tell. Yet I find one idea at a time is best here on the net. I will be back in the next few days to suggest more to come, and of course to always listen to your thoughts. Well, most of them :)