March 1, 2014

Spent the day yesterday photographing two state championship high school basketball games. A photographer there was really interested in talking about the lighting qualities of the various high school gyms in the area.

“Cottonwood’s okay if you can stand the yellow,” he said.

I put my headphones on and he started talking to someone else. I realized how little any of it mattered. After you’ve photographed hundreds of games you don’t really worry about details like that. Especially with today’s technology. This guy had at least $15,000 in equipment, and at that level it doesn’t matter what the light is.

But then their conversation veered into sales, costs, 10% discount codes, and all the bullshit that is killing photography. I turned up the volume, letting Warbringer take me away from it all. Head in the sand, head in the sanity.

No, I was probably listening. Because I heard him say that he rented a long lens for some previous high school tournament, shot six-thousand photos, and made only a single sale. He didn’t even recoup the cost of the lens rental.

Six-thousand photos. One sale.

I chimed in. I wonder how many photos of their kids these parents have seen by today, the end of the season? How much have they spent on prints of their athletes, and how many have they been given for free?

What’s killing photography is all of us posting fitty photos from every game.

So true. It’s not about quality anymore. It’s not about the best photo. At least, it’s not enough about the best photo.

As for him posting 6,000 photos from a tournament:

I put about 9,500 photos into my archive in all of 2013. I’d probably only show about 200 of those publicly, like if I was going to make a book or something. And in showing you those 200 good ones, I’d know that 150 of them were obviously flawed. I’d also know that my ten best photos had imperfections (in and out of my control) that I still kick myself over.


I woke up this morning and my wife and I watched Claude Lelouch’s underground and illegal race through Paris in 1976. Rendezvous. I want the opening title screen or something like it to be on anything I produce. This:

le film que vous allez voir a été réalisé sans aucun trucage ni accéléré

I’m reading The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit of Speed and Truth in the Outlaw Racing World
. There is a good thought early in the book for photographers in today’s world where the major camera brands are like vampires sucking our wallets dry. He walks about a pair of young bankers one-upping each other by purchasing the latest Ferrari, “flashing his Panerai diving watch and smiling at the girls at the next table.”

Then this:

Not one of these people will ever hunt, cave-dive or race, or attempt anything that would endanger their purebred dog, Italian navy diving watch, or custom-ordered car, let alone their own safety, unless well paid, forced, or shamed into it.

This is the message of Rendezvous— it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.


To the other professional photographer at the game, a real photojournalist who has been doing this as long as I have, I pointed a question regarding the 6,000/1 photographer.

Were there people like him on the sideline back when we started out?

People like him meaning the photo enthusiasts you find at every local high school, spending thousands of dollars on equipment, talking about how mad their wives are when they buy new lenses, photographing the games and giving their photos away to the team… Were there any of those guys on the sidelines back in the day?

No, he said. Back then it was just professionals, and they wouldn’t even talk to you. You’d ask them a question and just get a glare in response.

True. The people doing photography then, when it was film and manual focus and difficult to the level that your photos might not even turn out, were only professionals. There were no enthusiasts, only people who had at some point devoted their entire lives to photography.

Photography was a challenge then.

Today’s modern, do-everything in-focus-all-the-time equipment has made it so easy. It’s made capturing the photograph a simple effort of pointing and clicking. And that is why you have so many people spending their wives’ money on equipment and making 6,000 photos.

The challenge now, the thing that makes you as a professional standing above all of the enthusiasts… your single best photograph from the game.

In another word, editing.

The photographer who posts 6,000 photos of the game is an amateur. The photographer who posts 1 masterpiece is the professional, the expert, the master.

Note: These days it’s likely that neither photographer will get paid.

I’m using two minutes of Mr. 6000/1′s life to make some observations on photography. This is a man pursuing a passion, and we respect that. So if you’re reading this, 6000/1, it’s not so much about you as it is about where photography is today. You’re welcome at my side any time. We co-exist.

And again, it’s not about what you have, but how you use it. See what I’m saying:

Elephant Rides

Esar Met listens during his murder trial in Salt Lake City, Tuesday January 7, 2014. Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008

You know horsey rides, right? Where you get down on all fours and a child climbs on your back and you gallop and buck and horse around? I guess people in other countries do it, too. That’s what the defense attorney said as he asked the members of the jury to keep their minds open about Esar Met’s guilt or innocence.

Defense attorney Michael Peterson brings out a world map during the defense's opening at the murder trial of Esar Met in Salt Lake City, Tuesday January 7, 2014. Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008

People from Southeast Asia, like the Burmese refugee kids at the South Park apartment complex, call horsey rides elephant rides. Esar Met would give them elephant rides and the attorney told the jury that that might explain why 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo’s blood was found on Met’s denim jacket when he was arrested for her murder. His DNA was under her fingernails as well.

Then the prosecution started to show the crime scene photos. Nothing really explains how one of Hser Ner Moo’s tiny purple shoes landed in that filthy toilet in the basement, the other shoe falling behind and beneath the porcelain. Or why the little girl ended up murdered, face down in the shower.

A photo the basement bathroom of the apartment where Hser Ner Noo was found, displayed during the murder trial of Esar Met in Salt Lake City, Tuesday January 7, 2014. Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008

I photographed some of the evidence photos shown during the trial. The ones I didn’t photograph, the ones too disturbing to show, will be burned in my mind for a long time. They were pretty horrifying, just as we had been warned.

I photographed Hser Ner Moo’s father, Cartoon Wah, while the search for the missing child was still underway at the South Park apartments. You can read about that here:

If you want more from the trial, reporter @Marissa_Jae is there.