Kevin McGloshen, KPM Photography

Mundane Assignments

There was a time when journalism was romantic. Jet setting, sophisticated, cosmopolitan … the days of Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Ernie Pyle and Edward R. Murrow. I picture myself wearing a somewhat Indiana Jones-ish style outfit, sipping rum in a bar in Havana while reporting on the rise of Fidel Castro. Or maybe standing on a rooftop, a cigarette sticking out of my mouth as I photograph the first wave of the German Luftwaffe.

This is one of the reasons that journalism so enthralled me in college. Studying these old badasses made journalism seem like a most exciting undertaking. Add the fact that my images could end up in history books and you can see the appeal.

It was always hard for me starting out in the business to imagine a time when Robert Capa was assigned to cover the local county fair, or a ground breaking ceremony, or any other number of events that 99 percent of photojournalists are required to cover and find utterly mundane and ridiculous. Unfortunately, working for a newspaper, especially a small hyper-local publication, covering these assignments are a necessary evil.

As a reporter or a photographer working in a small community, you are charged with recording the history of your community. These small events may seem mundane and boring, but the people in your community want to read about them. They want to see photos of their smiling children and family. They eat it up. The annual little league tournament … forget about it. The papers will fly off the racks.

These assignments make up the fabric of the community. Daily life in a small community can seem ordinary, but that does not mean that the photos recording them have to be ordinary. There have been times when I’ve walked into an assignment feeling all kinds of indifference, only to walk out with an amazing photograph.

This is not always the norm, but it is just as easy to walk into a situation that you feel assured will result in a spectacular photograph, only find yourself searching frantically for a single good image. Constantly keeping a positive attitude in a cynical newsroom is virtually impossible, but keeping an open mind to the possibility of creating a keeper out of what feels like a throw-away situation is a bit more manageable.

I can’t say that every boring assignment will result in a wonderful photograph, or that you won’t fall into the trap of making a photographic cliche, but you may just surprise yourself and your editors. If you have photographed an event before, don’t make the same photograph you made the previous year. Try looking as a situation differently. Get lower, get higher, change your perspective and observe before you even click the shutter. You might just be updating your portfolio.

15 Responses

  1. Xandy

    December 20, 2011

    Just do me a favor and keep writnig such trenchant analyses, OK?

    Reply

  2. Jerod Clapp

    February 01, 2012

    I think that’s something I liked about photographing for http://www.lifeincorydon.com. Though a lot of the events we photographed were pretty everyday, there were a lot of ways to capture them.

    Also, best of luck in your future endeavors. The newsroom won’t be the same without you.

    Reply

    • Kevin McGloshen

      February 02, 2012

      Thanks, Jerod. Great working with you, I’ll keep you in mind if I ever need another shooter.

  3. glofe

    February 06, 2012

    hi!!!

    Reply

  4. Lindsay Brown

    February 07, 2012

    Hey Kevin. My name is Lindsay and I’m working on my application to the News and Tribune right now! I stumbled across your page to see what I was getting myself into. I’ve been interning at the Lima News in Ohio for the last 6 months and I totally agree with everything you have written here. Even though I thought photojournalism was going to be the door to epic travels, I really love the everyday mini-adventures of small town America. Even the most mundane events are a fiber in the complex web of a community.

    Reply

    • Kevin McGloshen

      February 07, 2012

      I couldn’t agree more, Lindsay. Good luck with your application with the NAT. I know they had a lot of candidates to sort through, but they want to hire someone pretty quickly. Don’t be afraid to bug Shea! Let me know if I can be of any help. Cheers

  5. Lindsay Brown

    February 07, 2012

    I’ll call Shea tomorrow. If you look at my stuff : http://lindsaysphoto.com and you think it is up to par, you can pass my name along :) I’m so glad I ran across your website! You have a great web-presence.

    Reply

    • Kevin McGloshen

      February 11, 2012

      You have a good eye and a great use of natural light. I love the fact that you’re not afraid to get close to your subjects. Good luck, I’ll give Shea a buzz for you.

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