Being a journalist is great, and I am very proud of what I have chosen as my life’s work.
It comes with some good things – people recognize you and give you a compliment – and it comes with some bad things – people recognize you and tell you that you stink.
But I have found over the years that one thing is harder than pretty much anything else about this job. No, it is not asking tough questions. No, it is not going into a situation that you know in advance will be hostile. No, it is not taking the at times absolutely profane and threatening calls that journalists get from time to time. (That has not happened to me at this job, for the record).
For me, the hardest thing about this job is taking pictures. I don’t mean the physical part of taking pictures. I actually took a photography class in college. I shot with a manual camera (this was before digital) and developed my own film. It was an involved process and fun, actually.
But once I got to a newspaper and went out on assignments, I realized something: A lot of people hate to have their picture taken.
And when I say hate, I mean Packers/Bears level hate.
Just recently I was taking pictures at Autumn on Parade.
“Don’t take my picture.” A woman barked at me. “I don’t want to be in a picture.”
I wasn’t even pointing my camera in her direction.
Women, often, simply don’t like the way they look in pictures, so it can be a bit of a negotiation.
Me: Can I get a couple of pictures?
Her: Absolutely not.
Me: I just need a couple of shots. It will give the story more impact.
Her: Absolutely not.
Me: I haven’t had this much resistance since I shot those photos with Cindy Crawford 20 years ago…
Her: You shot Cindy Crawford?
OK, I have never shot photos of supermodel Cindy Crawford. But sometimes you have to get creative when you want to get a photo.
Men are even worse. Even if I give them advance notice, a lot of men just refuse to have their photos taken.
The worst for me, however, are kids. Kids can give you some great, natural pictures. When they are just doing their thing and you are taking pictures, they can be so unguarded that you can’t help but get some great photos.
The problem is approaching people to take photos of their kids at a place like Oregon Park West. I introduce myself and hand out my business card, but no matter what I just look like a creep with a camera taking pictures of kids. I know I am a good person, but it still makes me feel weird. And the withering looks from moms can really get to you. Trust me.
So, if you see me at an event taking a few pictures, just go about your business and ignore me. Trust me, I don’t want to make anyone look bad. I just want to capture a moment. And hopefully not look creepy while I do it.
Brad Jennings is Editor of The Ogle County Life.