Monday, July 29, 2013

Reincarnation: Going to Virginia with a Banjo on my Knee


Almost two years ago I returned to Virginia to begin freelancing. After serving three years in Abu Dhabi as a staff photographer at the English language newspaper The National I thought my career as a daily news photographer was finished. With job opportunities in the industry whittling away I was convinced that I would never work for a newspaper again. 

That said, before I left the United Arab Emirates I felt the need to document my observances of daily life so I created a visual momento of sorts. In the end I edited the images into the essay In-shallah-la-land. My plan was to possibly use the series as a promotional piece if I ever set up meetings with editors on this side of the pond. 

Fast forward to the States...

Literally less than 15 minutes after landing in Chicago via London my cell rang and I accepted my first editorial assignment as a freelancer. My goal was to hit the ground running but even this pace was a little more then I had expected. 

To be honest, I was really more concerned at building my wedding business Love Minus Zero. I felt that from a business perspective it made more sense to be a wedding photographer than an editorial photographer. It came down to numbers and I knew I would have a greater return on my investment with weddings.  

That said, I also worked at steadily building both an editorial and commercial client base. However, the girth of my energy was displaced to Love Minus Zero. Throughout my first year, I focused heavily on strictly building a presence in Hampton Roads and Richmond, VA. 

To be fair, I also kept an eye out for local publications and businesses that I felt might be able to use my services. I didn't dig too deeply, just enough to scratch the surface. Thankfully, between my wedding clients, editorial work and commercial opportunities my business plan was working, I was making more than my initial projections. Better yet, moving forward into my second year my income was growing at double the rate as my first year. 

I was grateful but there was something missing...

I assumed that a lack of creating in-depth work might hurt my spirit so during this time frame I continued to work on short and long form visual storytelling. One essay entitled Child Hope led me to Haiti where I developed a series of portraits that coupled Haitian children with their favorite item within the confines of the group home where they lived. In my essay Coming to America I spent a year documenting my son's transition back into the States after having lived more than half of his short life in a foreign country. I found it a fascinating topic and something I felt others might gain a little insight from viewing. Both projects fueled my fire but for only so long. 

Going Fishing...

A few months ago I stopped in at an office building in Norfolk, VA to meet with a creative director that I've been working with a lot lately. While I was waiting for my client to arrive I ran into The Virginian-Pilot photo editor Bill Kelley. We had a quick chat and in passing he mentioned they were looking to fill a staff photography position. I paused. Just then the elevator doors opened and my client poked her head out and smiled, I quickly  said my farewell to Bill and left. 

After my meeting, I went out to my car and called my wife to give her a heads up I was on my way home. I mentioned to her that I ran into Bill and about the job opening. As always, my wife encouraged me to pursue the opportunity - to seize the day. The next thing I know, I'm standing in front of the office doors of the photo department at The Pilot. 

The Future...

Once again I've been given the opportunity to document the history and daily on-goings of a community. What makes this region so unique and special to me is that I've spent the majority of my developmental years as a child, teenager and young adult growing up in the Seven Cities. In fact, my first real job was delivering The Virginian-Pilot many many many moons ago. 

Hampton Roads, or The Old Dominion - my pet name for the area, is by far not on my top three places to live list but I have an affinity for the people, the places and the things that make this area home. So, without further delay it gives me great pleasure to announce my new roll as a staff photojournalist at The Virginian-Pilot. 

I feel as if I've been reincarnated! 

3 comments: said...

Congrats Rich-Joseph!

Brad Armstrong said...

Rich this is fantastic news. Congratulations! It is well deserved and speaks loudly of your talent and hard work ethic. With that said, "hopefully" there's long term security with a consistent pay check, insurance and benefits for the family. I hope the newspaper industry's financial wow's are behind them and you can do meaningful work again. I look forward to seeing what you do with your reinsertion back into the business.


Thanks Daniel!

Brad - I truly appreciate your comment. I hope that I can bring some fresh ideas, solid content and long-form visual stories to the paper. I also hope that I can help, to some degree, in redefining how we package and deliver our news within our community and elsewhere. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the journey. Cheers!