Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hugs for Free!

I've never been a huge fan of Valentines Day.

That's not to say I'm not a fan of love, and romance, a nice meal, flowers, soft music. Kathleen and I are on the same page when it comes to allowing this extremely commercial day to come and go without much fanfare at all.

I stood in the rain on Valentines Day, while taking a break from another story I'm working on, to get a photo of a young woman and man giving away free hugs. I thought it was very refreshing to see this, and was pleased to learn that there were absolutely no strings attached. It was just a nice gesture by two people trying to pass along a kind act.

Stephanie Mulhall, 23, right, and Fernando Brava, 22, behind, braved the cold rain to stand on the corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets in Toronto to offer free hugs and valentines to passers-by on Feb. 14, 2012.(Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
While I'm happy not to participate in the mad dash for flowers and chocolates, I have to admit that I am still of two minds about the whole thing.

I don't think we need a special day to tell those most dear to us how we feel about them, or to do something romantic. However, as a society that seems to be getting busier and busier, with each passing day, if it is necessary to have a special day to kick-start some lazy lovers then I guess that can't be all bad.

Friday, 10 February 2012

"Maybe Next Year!" and mean it!

Every year I say, "Maybe next year," and this year is no different.

Today the results of the World Press Photo contest were released and I have to say that the winning images are seriously impressive. Congratulations to the winners!

While we don't, or shouldn't, work as photojournalists to win awards, it is nice to have your work recognized. WPP is the worlds largest photo contest and a prize in it isn't exactly bad news to wake up to.

But as I've said in the past, a person can't sit on any single contest prize and hope to be successful on bragging rights alone. Photographers who are successful over time, and some time and time again, repeatedly use their skill, their motivation, their creativity, and their opportunities to make images like many that are included as winners in this year's WPP.

Success at anything is about continuing to work hard to improve yourself and your craft. It's about not being happy with the status quo, and about thinking outside of the box. It's about never giving up and finding inspiration in the work of others around you.

Finding the proper and most efficient ways to do this is more than half the battle.

What strikes me often about many winning images I look at from contests, beyond the memorable images of course, is the access that photographers were able to secure, for one reason or another. Access takes forethought. It takes planning. It takes organization. And it takes vision. It takes patience. And it takes persistence.

There will always be award winning images that come from a photographer "just being there," but in my opinion these are the exception.

Beyond the stellar images produced this past year - and not just those that placed - I want to congratulate those photographers and photo editors that see the value of time spent planning, envisioning, and working to create those rare situations where compelling photographs are made.

The starting point for great photojournalism is foresight and fortitude.

I think we all have the potential to make stunning images, and to tell compelling stories, but you have to be there, and getting there is where the difference is made.

So, again this year, I'm doing my best with the opportunities I have, and trying to reach beyond what's immediately obvious, or available. We should all do this. And in doing so we can hope for great images and stories to develop from it.

And then we can say, with conviction, and not hollow words, "Maybe next year!"