Thursday, January 31, 2008

the ever-living ghost of what once was.

from a funeral i photographed this morning. the service was for a 16-year-old boy who was stabbed in a park, then rode his bike up the street only to collapse and die in a stranger's arms. the details around his death are still being investigated.

the service was huge and beautiful, a catholic ceremony in the south side of town. it's almost the anniversary of the death of another local teen, manuel, whose service was at the very same church. different family, different set of details, but the same sadness one year apart.

the whole thing's tumbling down.

in my sixteen months as a staff photographer, there are days that i feel like i am finally getting a handle on this business of newspapers. most of the time, however, i realize this monster is bigger than i thought.

let me preface this by saying that i do not know anything about running a newspaper as a business. i do not think in terms of ad revenue, salaries, investors, numbers. i can think in terms of readers, column-widths and stories. i realize that at almost 2 years, i might still be a little too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for my own good.

i'll be the first to admit i don't understand how half the staff can quit and the newsroom is emptier than a dive on a tuesday night while we're on the block to be sold, yet we're still losing enough money in ad revenue to prompt what eventually could be the absorption of the entire paper into one sheet. okay, it's not that bad, but what's stopping it from going that far?
newspapers as we know it may be a dying industry, just like everyone says. i might be at the first and last traditional paper i'll ever work for. somehow, though, i've managed to hit a relative calm. everyone says, "things are so uncertain," but in the greater scope of life, when are things really that concrete? i'm not afraid to lose my job in the sense of losing my ability to tell stories through my photography. but i am uneasy about losing the venue in which to communicate with and affect change within this community.
recently i had a talk with fellow photojournalist jared soares about home and the waves of longing for that basement room in your parent's house when you were fourteen and only had to worry about the next day's homework. when i get "homesick" in stockton, it's not for my physical childhood house. i miss the confidence and certainty that anything lay ahead, and the promise of a bright future. not to say i've given up, but when things get overwhelming, it's understandable to wish for better times.
sometimes i miss being a kid and making "big" decisions that carried no real weight in the long run. this is probably why, lately, i've been content for the most part to photograph those "grip and grin" situations. even when the photographs aren't spectacular, i find myself feeding on the excitement of the people i'm photographing. its payoff is twofold: not only does it help me gain perspective on my own life, it forces me to spend more than the requisite ten minutes to get that "newspaper quality" shot to fill the hole left open by page designers. every now and then i'll get a photograph i'm happy with an hour or two after i normally would have left. and i've come to terms with the fact that 95% of the time my captions are cut dramatically shorter and the photos run one column wide because i was given the opportunity to spend an hour of my day thinking about someone other than myself, listening to someone other than my own head.