The photo I posted here is from a Hawks’ game but I really want to write about Haiti.

Even though I have the people in Haiti in my prayers right now  I want to use this blog post to discuss some of the thoughts I have had while looking at the earthquake photographs being made on the island.

Some of the greats of newspaper photojournalism are working the disaster. Among them are Carolyn Cole and Rick Loomis of the LA Times, Damon Winter of the New York Times, Carol Guzy of the Washington Post and Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald. I assume many others are on their way. Definitely google Cole and Winter’s work. It is epic.

Like the days after September 11th and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I can’t see enough photos from Haiti.

I have so many feelings going through me right now.

Besides overwhelming sadness, I also feel things that probably only other  photographers feel. Some of those feelings I am not very proud of.

First off, it is a little sad that I want to look at an endless number of images of human suffering. Also, the fact that I can look at a photo of a pile of dead bodies and think to myself, “Hmmm…that is poorly composed. That photographer missed a great opportunity?” is kinda wrong.

I am in awe of the images being taken by my colleagues shooting the earthquake but also a tiny bit jealous. I have no idea if my newspaper has sent or are planning to send a shooter to Haiti but if they do I know that I won’t be one of those asked to go. International news coverage has never been part of my job description. Not that I don’t think that I am capable of doing it and doing it well but due to family circumstances and other factors out of my control I have never shot in a war zone or a disaster area.

I don’t want to be in Haiti right now because it looks like hell on earth. But, I am trying to understand why I am feeling jealousy?

Maybe it is because even though I love being a community journalist/ sports shooter, I feel that most people look down on what I do. I don’t go to exotic places and shoot exotic people. I don’t cover earthquakes, forest fires, hurricanes, tsunamis or wars. I don’t wear a scarf and shoot with a Leica. In my whole career, I have only seen one dead body outside of the many many funerals that I have shot.

I have covered some huge events, like Barack Obama’s Inauguration, three Olympic Games, a World Series and a Super Bowl, so no one should feel sorry for me but I still feel a step below the war/disaster shooters.

I will get over it but right now I feel that everything I shoot in Chicago is a waste of time and totally insignificant.

However if push came to shove, I wouldn’t trade my long term farm/subdivision personal project for anything. I wouldn’t give up sitting on the couch watching football with my son for weeks away from home.

I guess I just have a terrible case of “the grass is always greener” syndrome.

Time to go finish building a shelf in the basement.

Thanks for reading my self-indulgent ramblings.

©2010 Scott Strazzante/ Chicago Tribune


24 Responses to “reflections”

  1. You’ve neatly described the part of photojournalism (and journalism) that I hate the most.

  2. Could not agree with you more Scott, I have the exact same feelings you are describing, the jealousy, but I know I couldn’t do what Loomis, Winter and Cole are. The important thing is the stories of the people of Haiti, and the photogs there now are showing the world how tragic this event is.

  3. Very good post. I am a portrait photographer with roots in local photojournalism. I understand your feelings completely. These guys who cover these types of stories have a monumental task of documenting the events and do a great job.

  4. I have an extra scarf if you want to start wearing one…

    But on a serious note, I agree completely with everything you’re feeling.

  5. […] seen in a long time there.  It’s hard not to get jealous – Scott Strazzante has a great blog post about that feeling which I share.  In […]

  6. My heart goes out to you. Because you are feeling the way you are, is evidence you are a great photojournalist. To me, as an internet viewer, ‘local’ is a relative term.

  7. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent just like my hero David Turnley when I was in school. I fell in love and suddenly my family was more important than my desire to get that far away photograph.

    Fast forward 19 years…
    I traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with my husband in Oct. It was the first time we’ve ever traveled like that, he’s a shooter too. When I heard about the quake I wanted to go there so bad to help and to shoot and report. I have felt some jealousy too about not getting to travel there. But now, I’m glad I didn’t get to go. The reports of hearing people cry out for help from under buildings is heart wrenching.

    Don’t know my point here. Just thought I’d share my thoughts too. I guess it’s to say you’re not alone.

  8. Scott, thanks for your candor.
    Haiti is an important story that surely will dominate the news for many weeks to come. I pray for the well-being of the journalists as well as the country dealing with this much tragedy.
    But your local coverage isn’t any less significant. To me you are the champ of local journalism, and besides, who decides what “local” means anyway?

  9. I feel the same. I have had this uneasy feeling all last week. It feels weird (wrong at times) and I don’t talk about it much because I don’t know wow to explain my feelings or write them out like you and Chip have done. Like you said maybe only photogs (and my wife) understand. The images you make do matter and I hope mine do as well.

  10. thanks for sharing your true thoughts scott. i know many of us feel the same way… but the community journalism that you’re putting out there is just as important, though it might not always feel that way.

  11. “I will get over it but right now I feel that everything I shoot in Chicago is a waste of time and totally insignificant.”

    Sorry Dude, but part of that has to do with the Tribune no longer being on a National stage. It has become a local newspaper, and when large events like this happen, we all want to be there. Those days are over. I was shocked to see that it’s not even front page news in the Tribune anymore. Back to LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL.
    Sadly, I knew it was over quite a few years ago when I was at an assignment and the people that I was there to photograph said ” I can’t believe the Tribune would even cover this” at which point I agreed and uttered ” I can’t believe it either”. It was an assignment about Girl Scout cookie’s being distributed. LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL

  12. oops sorry, I forgot to add my link Its all about the hits..

  13. Scott, I really admire your ability to articulate thoughts in writing that I sometimes self-edit in a desire to shrug off. I agree with most of what you are saying, and identify with probably TOO much of it:-) Ultimately I think many of us started out in this profession with change-the-world motivations and working abroad did seem to encapsulate that. When through politics, timing and life circumstance these dreams don’t take hold, I think it’s pretty normal to wonder what-if? I used to work with Loomie when we were both getting started at the Times, but notwithstanding his immense talent, I knew while seeing his meteroic star that I couldn’t have made the same sacrifices as he, which have been pretty substantial. For some photojournalists in that arena, there is an over-the-top success that almost feels like piling on because of the lopsided nature of things. Yet all they are doing is what we would be doing in the same situation, which is to go with it. So all I can do is pray for them and wish that their work accomplishes the greater goal. Having said this, I too fail often at surrender and acceptance. Darn ego.

  14. […] Reflections: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune photojournalist, offers some quiet, respectful and considered candor on Haiti and the role of photojournalism on his blog, “Shooting from the Hip.” […]

  15. […] a few days ago our friend Scott Strazzante published a beautifully honest post on his blog about his feelings of being a newspaper photographer in Chicago looking out on a world of […]

  16. I can really identify with your feelings. Your work in community photojournalism is important, and it is an inspiration to me. I love your blog. Keep up the great work.

  17. Your words inspire me. I feel exactly the same way. “The Grass is Always Greener.” While I’m “stuck” doing photo work for a company that barely appreciates what they have(someone willing to do anything), other photographers are capturing a disaster, a death, a story.

  18. Great post Scott.

    I felt the same way when Katrina hit.

    I was working at the Aspen Times in Colorado. Going out to cover a high school soccer game with Katrina devastating the Gulf shore in the back of my mind was a bit disheartening. I was missing a huge news story. I really didn’t shoot that game very good.

    Everything I covered felt useless and unimportant.

    When I heard about some my PJ friends driving to NOLA and the Mississippi coast, I became envious. Then I had to remember: My job is to cover local news and events: A community photojournalist.

    So, I did what a good journalist would do: I covered it from the view point of our community. Within a month, or paper sent a writer and myself there to document Pearlington, Miss., small town adopted by the valley that was wiped by the storm surge. All relief efforts were focused on helping the town. We went 2 more times after that.

    I think becuase of that experience, I don’t feel it as much this time around. In fact, I am in support of those going, and without the envy.

    Thanks again Scott.

  19. I wonder, Scott, if your feelings might not partially stem from a desire to “shoot it” right. To make sure the story, the tragedy and the people are represented honestly and with deserved impact. I could see a conscientious photographer feeling that way. Given the way you meticulously and deliberately covered the farm/subdivision project…I’d guess you are pretty conscientious. As a nurse, I felt the same way when it came to the first week after Katrina. I couldn’t put myself in harm’s way while leaving young sons at home no matter how much I wanted to help or perform my professional duties. You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to help in your own way.

  20. I totally relate, Scott.

    Most of my experience has been photographing sports. Now in my final semester at the University of Missouri, I’m taking “Picture Story & the Photographic Essay.” We regularly look at excellent stories and essays.

    Seeing this work, I constantly find myself wanting to focus on meaningful photography and stories, the kind that connect humans together. I’m avoiding photographing sports and trying to make relationships with people.

    I’m glad that you’ve found a personal project. We all need something substantial to feel a larger sense of worth. That’s what separates photojournalists from the rest of the world—depth, human connection and real emotion.

    You work isn’t insignificant. The fact that you have these thoughts in the first place reaffirms your merit as both a photographer and a human being.

    Stay strong, Scott.

  21. A very evocative post, Scott…your work is terrific, it is every bit about the human condition as any war or disaster work…I always try to remember something I heard at a graduation ceremony years ago: “Don’t compete, create…” wishing you health and happiness….Jed

  22. […] seen in a long time.  It’s hard not to get jealous – Scott Strazzante has a great blog post about that feeling which I share.  In […]

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