It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in front of my computer feeling stuck and overwhelmed with the next step I needed to take in my desire to pursue a career in photojournalism. Simply put, I had no idea what to do. I was getting closer to graduating with my associate’s degree — too close for someone not prepared for her next step.
I had purposely avoided the counselors at my college after seeing them recommend unnecessary classes to my friends that resulted in two-year degrees taking four years to attain. My own experience of sitting down in one of their offices in hopes of getting some advice on where to apply to next started with me defining what photojournalism was and ended immediately afterward.
In that moment of uncertainty and desperation I decided to go straight to the source. A professor of mine once said that the worst thing someone could tell you is “no” and that it wouldn’t kill you.
I went home that night, sat down in front of the computer, and brought up news sites like National Geographic and The New York Times. I sifted through image after image, located ones that inspired me and then shifted my eyes toward the photo credit below the pictures. I wrote down the names of the photographers and then did a search on them in hopes of finding their contact information.
After what seemed like only an hour, I had a small list of photographers and their email addresses…even a few numbers! The thought crossed my mind that it couldn’t be that easy. Maybe they had their own employees answering their phones and emails…I mean, these photographers worked for the biggest news sources in the world. With that uncertainty still looming over my head, I wrote and asked for advice.
Two days later brought me two detailed replies. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my reaction to opening those emails. For the first time since wanting to be a photojournalist, I felt the certainty that it was going to happen. It was like hanging off the side of a cliff and having someone throw you a rope (not that I’ve ever experienced this…yet).
I will be sharing the advice I was given from these photographers with you in the coming week and urge you to follow the steps I did if you are finding yourself in a similar situation. Remember, the worst thing anyone can say is “no” and in this field you will hear that a lot, but let it motivate you to keep at it!