Had an old friend in town last night. Scott was up from Statesboro for a relative’s graduation from the university, got in a little bit of time with him over beer and pizza downtown. After 17 years of on-and-off friendship, it’s easy for us to do a lot of reminiscing. Old people, the old paper we worked at. (True story – Scott was the first guy to give me a real full-time job in the newspaper industry. I lasted a little over a month before having it out with his boss and getting myself fired. She felt I was arrogant, I felt her copy desk should know not to run a headline that read, “School Bored Votes on Education Standards.”)
As we were wrapping up outside the restaurant I saw this little intersection of mortar and glass and made a few frames. It’s been stuck in my mind all day now and I’m applying symbolism to it that really isn’t there. (Students – see, I’m practicing apophenia.)
Scott and another co-worker/colleague/conspirator were huge influences on my early work. We were all passionate and hated to get beat. The darkroom we worked out of only had two enlargers, so one of us was almost always waiting … and peeking into the fixer tray to see what bit of genius the others had pulled out of a strip of Tri-X that week. Then pretending not to be jealous of what was there.
After an entertaining year in the Washington, D.C., area, I left and went back to Massachusetts. With a stronger portfolio from my time working alongside Scott, my freelance client list grew quickly. Scott headed deeper south and landed in Savannah, along with our other friend Adam. When an opening came up, they put in a good word for me. But their boss was overwhelmed and by the time he got around to calling me, I was unpacking for a new job in North Carolina.
Being a recovering Catholic, I would have felt guilty quitting that job before I’d even started, so I turned down the Georgia job. One of the very few regrets in my life as the job turned into a nightmare quickly and I started searching for the fastest route out of the south I could find.
Maybe that was an almost-crossing of paths, but it renewed a dormant friendship for a while. A few years later, I headed south for a visit and spent a great weekend listening to Adam rock a few shows and eating crabcake sandwiches and mashed, fried plantains out on Tybee Island.
When I got down here a few years ago, we got back in touch. He was up in Athens last year for a football game and I paired one of my students with him for a project this past semester. He teaches an occasional class on photojournalism, so we trade teaching tips and resources.
All of that would have been great fodder for a few hours over beers, but it took up maybe 30 minutes. The rest of our conversation wandered around what’s going on in journalism, how can we make sure the important stuff is getting shot and seen. He’s at a small paper now, almost the same size as where we started decades ago. But he’s happy there. He’s doing community journalism – and doing it well. Reaching out to his audience through every means he can.
Another meeting, another crossroads.