“It was the first time my camera felt like an extension of my hands.”

Joe McNally … my God, he gets it so right. Just this one graf from a letter he sent to a guy in the military who, when he finishes his time, wants to do this

Part of the pull of course is that photography involves an all out effort. You have to be at the top of the ladder for the best angle, not the middle. You don’t do it from the side of the road. You leave the car behind, climb the guardrail, and go out there to get in the middle of whatever you’re looking at. You walk into the village or the farm or the life of those in question. You get off the interstate, and, as Jay Maisel says, you walk—slowly. It’s a credential to life’s events you put around your neck that gets you past the barriers that hem in and corral the others. In return, it demands that you risk things—life, limb, emotions, embarrassment, failure, sometimes all at once. It seeks only the most ardent, passionate of suitors, and even then this fickle art and craft turns veiled eyes and offers the barest wisps of approval and acceptance, and those, only occasionally.

I try to communicate this with my kids here, to tell them that this isn’t a career, it’s a calling. It has to call to you. You have to be more than curious, you have to want to share what you have just learned so desperately it causes you physical pain. That camera – DSLR or Ph.D, still or video, film or digital – has to become a part of your body. In the same way we all know someone who talks with their hands, whose voice rises and falls like an operatic crescendo, we – those who have been called – we see. And we share.

We have a voice that needs to be seen.

There, now I’m all fired up again and it is thanks to David Sutherland, my advisor, mentor and friend.

Mark E. Johnson

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