Thursday, April 23, 2015

What would you say if Eugene Smith was on the front row listening?

Don Rutledge took this in 1967 inside the Arctic Circle.  People are so comfortable with Don that he is able to be apart of the woodwork. 
Don Rutledge was the speaker on the second day of the Atlanta Photojournalism Conference in 1975. The night before William Albert Allard had blown away the group with his work on the American Cowboy. First time anyone had spoked to the group and gotten a standing ovation.

Following Don Rutledge would be Eugene Smith. Don admired Smith's work more than any other photographer at the time. Eugene Smith is sitting right in front of Don during this talk.

photo by: Ken Touchton
Listen to Don't talk here:

Here are my notes from Don's talk:

There are three types of photographers
  1. Snap Shooter
  2. Gimmick Shooter
  3. Fullness of Photography Shooter
The Snap Shooter is one who enjoys taking pictures. The Gimmick Shooter uses tricks to keep your interest. The Fullness of Photography shooter uses his eyes, brain and heart to shoot.

Don got those three elements from Ernest Haas.

The Fullness of Photography Shooter I will call the concerned photographer.  They identify where people are in this world.

Now all of us can drift away from being a concerned photographer uses excuses. Many photographers use excuses like lack of time to dominate situations.

The concerned photographer listens and looks. They put it all together and stand flat footed in this world. We are tuned into the moments, in the zone, and able to anticipate those peak moments.

1) We need to learn to turn handicaps into advantages. 


I used to travel with Don doing stories for Black Star photo agency. These would be features that he could take at his own pace. Later I understood how this was Don's way of training himself to have muscle memory in those times when he was having to rush.

Don pointed out that all photos are taken at a fraction of a second, so it isn't a lack of time–it is a lack of discipline we lack in these times of having to work quickly.

2) We complain about photo editors who just don't understand. To update this a bit it is anyone you are shooting for today. 

Our problem is often our ego. We think we are a great photographer. We often are saying or wanting to say to our clients if you only gave me a chance. "This is where a picture is worth a thousand words," says Don with the audience laughter following.

Don's advice is to shoot the photo the way you want to and show it to them when they crop it poorly. Talk to them about what you were trying to say.

IMPORTANT!!!!!! Don said you most likely will not be heard the first time or even the second time. You are educating people over time. 

I personally watched and wrote about how long it took Don to turn around organizations in my thesis. Here are a links to it.
Storyteller: Master's Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter OneJan 16, 2013
For this reason this writer is doing his thesis on Don Rutledge for publication. Don has worked for Black Star photo agency in New York for more than thirty years. During this time he has also worked for the Home Mission and ... Master's Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter TwoJan 12, 2013
Don was born in Smithfield, Tennessee. Not long after being born the family moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, south of Nashville. "Good ole' home folk," is what you would say about the Rutledges. They lived on a farm ...
Storyteller: Master's Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter ThreeJan 13, 2013
Master's Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter Three. HOME MISSION BOARD, 1966 TO 1980. When Walker Knight went to the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1959 he was handed photo story ...
Storyteller: Master's Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter FourJan 15, 2013
When Dr. Keith Parks went to the Foreign Mission Board in 1975, his responsibility was to head up the mission support division. Establishing one of the finest communications departments possible was one of the goals that ... Master's Thesis on Don Rutledge: ConclusionJan 16, 2013
To a non-Christian, Don would have been considered crazy for taking the positions with Southern Baptist. Going to the Home Mission Board was definitely a step down in pay and prestige for Don Rutledge. Why would ...
Bottom line Don is telling us we need to prepared for some "Show and Tell."

Next Don warns us to have our Ego and Abilities in check with each other. We need to know our real abilities and not have our Ego way out and in front.

Now Don also mentions that being apart of an institution like LOOK Magazine helps a photographer. It will open doors for you and give you a budget to work with. There is a downside to an institution for a creative. You will find that they want to stop you and make you fit their system. 

Just know that being a creative photographer and wanting to change the world sometimes will take time. Time for you to educate those around you with work you are producing. You must be able to articulate your vision to help them see it.

No comments: