why do you shoot?
take a second and really think about it.
what’s the real reason, deep down, that you love to shoot?
sure, i shoot to tell stories. i shoot to empower people. i shoot to bring events, people, and places alive like no one could have imagined.
but there’s a more selfish reason i shoot. a deeper reason.
i shoot for the memories.
you know exactly what I’m talking about. the memories you can share with your family and friends. the memories that make you come alive and feel unstoppable. the memories you look back on a decade later and relive.
as storytellers, photographers, and cinematographers, we love helping, inspiring, and sharing stories with others. we get a thrill from putting other people’s details, nuances, and values ahead of our own. the time we devote to this is what makes a deep story.
but i’m also here to let you in on a little secret. it’s ok to be selfish.
it’s ok to shoot for yourself… to shoot for your own memories, too.
take my shoot for the NFL for example. i got to fly on the New Orleans Saints team charter as the only media person. that’s correct. the only media person flying with the Saints on one of the biggest flights of their lives.
i remember vividly the conversations the players had with each other. when they conversed with each other it was one big celebration, laughing, joking, even singing.
but whenever the players would sit by themselves, I could see the nervousness start to show, despite their attempts to hide it. they had trained their whole lives for this… and there I was… a witness in awe.
i remember the police escort that would await us as landed to make sure we made it safely to the hotel. i had never had a police escort before, but i promised myself to have more in the future. :)
the next day they got to meet President Obama (for winning the Superbowl) inside the White House. i can remember the feeling of the plastic from my Z-Finder pressed against my eye as Obama walked into the media room. the room looked much bigger through the 14mm lens i had on and when i pulled my eye away, there was the full Saints team and the president less than 10′ away. i’de never pull my eye off a Z-Finder in the middle of a shot normally but something in me just twitched and i had to make sure this was all real.
the President of the United States… 10 feet in front of me… smiling.
flash back to the halftime show during the Superbowl that brought them, and me, here. the Black Eyed Peas are ready to take the stage.
a massive blacklight was the only source of illumination in a massive Dallas Cowboys stadium. surrounding the stage was hundreds of dancers covered in white from head to toe. the blacklight played with the dancers to create a glow across the stadium unlike anything i’de ever seen before.
all the sudden, i started running onto the field. i wasn’t suppose to be on the field, i didn’t have credentials. but there i was, running, shooting, capturing the moment.
a few seconds later, it hits me… i’m on the field of the Superbowl.
i’m on the field of the Superbowl.
what happened next though, i hadn’t planned for.
something changed. shooting in a blacklight environment with that many people can be a tad disorienting to begin with but i must have missed some sort of cue. the dancers (remember, this is hundreds of them blanketing the field) got their signal and off they went. i had about a 15 yards headstart, but i was no match for the herd of people who started sprinting in different directions.
I was engulfed in a stampede of white. the lights are off, millions are watching from around the world, the halftime show in full swing, and little ‘ole me… smack dab in the middle of it all.
all i could think of was… how did I get here?
from the Superbowl and flying with the Saints to a feature length documentary on the Army and Navy. a logical jump right? Pete Radovich, the director of A Game of Honor, saw the work we had done with the NFL and thought we would be the perfect fit for his first feature documentary.
A Game of Honor offered us a unique experience each and every week. watching the movie now we sometimes forget that we were there for all of it.
we nearly forgot running out with Air Force, embedded inside the team, through the smoke into thousands of screaming fans.
we nearly forgot the locker room where, after a back-breaking loss, the only sound that could be heard in the locker room was that of 300lb men crying and embracing each other.
we nearly forgot the tactical training missions deep inside Quantico, riding in Blackhawk helicopters, or getting macro shots of a cannon being fired. actually, i do remember positioning myself behind the cannon and getting ready for the shot only to be warned that i’de surely lose my hearing and be burned by the shell if i didn’t move.
but it doesn’t take a football game or a military combat maneuver to create memories.
some of the best memories i’ve ever had shooting come from everyday people, in simple locations, talking from their heart.
while filming for the Old Skool Cafe piece we had asked Tammy, a manger and entertainer at the restaurant, to perform one of her spoken word pieces. her words are incredibly powerful and the specific piece we asked for is called Soldier.
her spoken word chronicles the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father in an almost hypnotic way. where you place your camera is where you place your audience and i wanted the audience to be right there with Tammy so with a 50mm prime i positioned myself no more than 12″ from her microphone.
she started to speak. she stumbled at first and then gained her confidence, then her voice, and then it just flowed through her. near the end of the piece as i moved the camera up from her mouth to her eyes i could see the tears forming and coming down her face.
in that moment she was no longer inside Old Skool Cafe but instead transported back into the nightmare she so strongly spoke out about. just writing about the moment brings shivers across my body. it was an incredible journey and a moment we all shared that will certainly always be with me.
WHY DO I SHOOT?
if i were to imagine sitting back and looking at all of this many years down the road, would it be the stories we told, the crazy unplanned moments, or would it be what we shared as a team building things together. late nights sharing ideas over bourbon on how to make SMAPP better, around the clock shoots where, regardless of the story, you can’t help but be inspired by the team you get to work with.
at the end of the day, for me at least, it’s all of them, and that’s probably a big reason we are who we are.
we gain something from every shoot; an experience, an adventure, a relationship, a skill, a new perspective, and a story. it’s always there we just don’t always take the time to see it or to make the most of it.
we value the process as much as what ends up on the screen and perhaps that’s why, in the end, we just can’t get enough. over the years we’ve been a part of some really amazing things and through all of that we’ve found our voice. knowing that and understand how that affects our storytelling has been a huge part of our journey to getting where we are today.
i love shooting for other people, i really do.
but most of all I love shooting for me.
i love shooting for the memories.
YOUR TURN: leave a comment below with the single deepest memory you have from a shoot you did. we can’t wait to hear your stories!