Saturday, 24 March 2007

Week One. A good start at the Globe!

You would think that after working as a photojournalist in Toronto for more than 17 years, going out on assignment would be old hat. Well, as I learned this week, this wasn't exactly the case.

My first day at the Globe was Monday. Once I finished the required paperwork and HR briefings, the rest of the day was spent getting to know my way around the newsroom, and more importantly, beginning to meet the many new men and women I'd be working with in the future. I've been joking that it took me 17 years to get to know "most" of the people at One Yonge Street - The Star - and now I have to start over! It shouldn't be that bad, however, because with some of the recent "trading" of talent between the two major dailies, I already know quite a few of the reporters and editors in the newsroom. Everybody has been very welcoming, and it has been very a very positive experience. I've felt great all week! My fellow staffers, and even some of the regular freelancers at the Globe were great in welcoming me. One photographer - KVP - even returned from the cafeteria with a large smirk, and a tray full of carrot cake for "Pete's first day!" How'd he know I love carrot cake?

We had a small glitch getting my gear, so that was delayed until Tuesday. After taking March break off with my family, and then sitting by while the other photographers were producing images, I was really itching to get started. Amidst a "shopping trip" and all the "niggly" bits that I had to get done, I went looking for a feature picture, finally, late on Tuesday. It was the last few hours of winter, and the eve of spring. The image I came up with was pretty graphic, and unbelievably tongue-in-cheek, but I desperately felt the need to make a picture.

I was chuckling to myself when I saw this on the sidewalk, and even the security guards - three of them - who came outside to discourage my "photography" left me alone when I explained what I was doing. We all had a good chuckle at it.

Needless to say, I didn't submit my first picture at the Globe to the archive, because I really didn't want it to be my first published image in Canada's National Newspaper. That image would wait until the following day, when two Wednesday assignments led to two published photographs on Thursday. One was a pre-budget assignment of Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, and the other an ROB shoot of Toronto Mayor David Miller. For whatever reason, the feelings I had at my first assignment were very different. I think I was actually nervous! But that soon changed when I had to beginning making pictures, and I'm sure all will be normal from here on in.

It was nice, but weird, bumping into a Star colleague at my first assignment, and I believe Rick has images of me doing my thing for the competition. If not doing my thing, then perhaps just getting my bald bean in his way!

On Wednesday evening I was supposed to attend the Star's going-away party for CJ who has also decided to leave there and join the growing staff at the Globe. I ended up getting there late, and only staying a short time, but I was happy to make it at all.

Late in the afternoon an out of town assignment came up that a couple of us jokingly volunteered for. I certainly had no thoughts of traveling any time soon, and certainly not during my first week! Eventually the assignment became a go, and I was asked if I could travel "next week." Nice of them to ask so nicely, I thought, and as usual Kathleen was terrific about making things work at home, and encouraging me to take the assignment. As is often the case in our industry, next week became tomorrow, and tomorrow became "can you leave tonight?" Well. Yes. Of course. One editor in particular was very excited to get me out the door. (You know who you are!) And I quipped, "The last time I saw that look on his face I ended up in Mogadishu!"

Getting me out the door, at the last minute, and not exactly fully kitted-out for the road took some doing from a number of folks, but with a few late departures from the office and some seriously good tech help from one home, I was on my way. It's amazing how one gets used to a certain work-flow, and adjusting to a new one will still take a few more days to "refine," but we got me to the point where I could get the job done, and the guys in the office could work with what I provided.

So the remainder of my week was spent doing a ton of traveling, and a small amount of shooting, for what is, I believe a really good story, published in Saturday's Globe and Mail. It was a good call by the team on Front Street, and I'm happy it worked out the way it did.

I'll speak more about this trip in my next post.

So. Week One at the Globe and Mail is in the books. So far I like the environment. I like the general attitude. And I like very much the co-operation amongst co-workers, and the product that's being produced. It has been a very promising beginning, and I'm looking forward to many more weeks, months, and years of the same.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

This time of change....

It's interesting that during this unbelievable time of transition (and emotion) for me, I woke up this past Saturday, feeling absolutely great about everything in my life. What a way to start a day!

The previous Thursday night my co-workers in the photo department at the Star held a going-away party for me. It was great to see everybody there, including the many reporter-friends, editors and imaging friends who came out to pass along their best wishes. Thanks also to some of the other Toronto-area photographers who came out.

After the emotional roller-coaster of the previous week, I told myself I wouldn't get upset. There is sadness in leaving, but I have great opportunities ahead at the Globe and Mail. However, as expected, the beers, and the tears were flowing, and I think that everybody there who knows me well, would have been surprised if either were absent.

I've tried to make this change in my life wisely, and with grace. I have not wanted to leave behind any animosity, or harsh feelings. Anything remotely resembling these would be a betrayal of the great friends, excellent co-workers, super opportunities, and wonderful success that I have had at The Star these many years. This is a move of opportunity, and change - both of which will serve me, and my family well.

Fast forward now to Saturday afternoon - I'm feeling awesome, and speeding toward Belleville with two great friends. We're on our way to the 20th Anniversary Gala of the Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College. Twenty years already. It's hard to imagine.

The evening was planned and executed in fine style by the students at the college. It was a night I would not have missed for the world! I would have liked to have seen more of my original classmates, but I hope that those who I did see were as happy to see me, as I them!

In addition to the student awards presented that evening, (congratulations to all, and good luck!), the program's founder, Dr. John Peterson, received an award of appreciation and thanks that he has been long due, There are many of us who owe him much for his vision and determination over twenty years ago. As well, other long-serving members of the staff and advisory committee were also recognized, during an official program that saw humour, gafs, serious reflection, and some funny photo-ops.

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Steve Russell, it was decided that this year it would be fitting to present the President's Cup for the ECNPA's Photographer of the Year during this reunion. I have not won this award since 1994, when, as everybody loves to say, I had more hair! Many Loyalist grads and other talented photographers have taken this cup home over the years, but it has eluded me for a long time. Michael Lea, long-time clip chairman, and talented Whig photographer/reporter made a great presentation, and it was a pleasure to receive the cup from him in front of that gathering. Thanks again. I cannot think of a more suitable place to receive such an honour, especially for me at this time, than at the school, and with the people, who were so influential in my career at the very beginning.

So what a time this has been! A very tough decision. A sad good-bye. A joyful reunion. And all the while constantly reminded of the good fortune I have had over many years of being surrounded by knowledgable mentors, great friends, and generous colleagues.

Kathleen and my children have been strong through all of this. Patience and guiding words have been there from the start, and their support is unwavering. This March Break week off together will give us an opportunity to reinforce to the kids that this career change for me will not change their lives dramatically. That they are still secure in every way, shape and form. Kathleen remains determined to overcome her own challenges, and will continue to be a skilled, and valued member of the library staff at One Yonge Street. It will be strange not working in the same building.

Next Monday I start my new job. I can't wait! Like everything in life there will be challenges, but I expect to meet them with patience and the same determination that has brought me to this point already. In all the years I have preached about bringing one's skills to the table, contributing in a positive manner, and participating in the entire news-gathering process, there has been no time where this has been more important than it will be during the coming months and years.