In anthropological terms, photojournalists are akin to hunter-gatherers. We hunt for and gather pictures to feed the eternally hungry pages of the newspaper, not unlike a growing child, and their voraciously hungry teenage brother, the web.
We are always on the prowl, even when we’re not working. We’re always searching, eyes darting from side to side as we cruise around the state, ready to hit the brakes when something catches our eye, something pixel-worthy. This is a skill that has been passed down through generations. My first week on the job at the Courant, in pre-historic times 25 years ago, I was sent out on an instructional foray with the intrepid photographer Dan Haar (who has since given up the hunter-gatherer lifestyle for a more predictable desk job as business editor and columnist) as my guide. Dan taught me valuable skills that I employ to this day, like how to multi-task while scouring the burbs for feature photos. I learned how to avoid hitting objects like mail boxes, pets and small children while driving and simultaneously turning my head from side to side tenaciously browsing the bushes for movement and signs of life. After grabbing sandwiches at a local deli, Dan taught me how to eat and drive while steering with my knees, tirelessly scanning the passing landscape for prey. And he taught me to economize by demonstrating how to shoot an assignment AND an enterprise photo all on one roll of film (yes, film. Remember that?)
The urge to hunt and gather is so powerful, we even do it unconsciously. When we’re at an assignment and should be concentrating on the subject matter, our eyes are always searching, scanning, easily distracted by unusual visual stimulus. Recently, while photographing the Bristol Eastern High School graduation on a steamy June evening, my eyes kept drifting over to a sprinkler at the edge of the football field, the setting sun illuminating the water with a gorgeous golden glow. Suddenly, a little girl, too distracted by the summer heat to watch her sister graduate, wandered over to the sprinkler to cool off. I crouched, I framed, I focused, I waited, and at last I captured my prey.