I was sitting in a Costa Mesa favorite hangout called Portola Coffee Lab. I was shuffling my way through a large file of photos that I had just finished editing the night before. They were pictures of my family and friends, excuse me… Kyle’s friends. They played a silly game of Thanksgiving kickball followed by an entertaining touch football game. And yes, there was beer, whiskey and champagne flowing. Duh.
A tall middle aged man came up to me with his gorgeous black Great Dane. The man pointed to the screen of my laptop and said, “I see you are a photojournalist, now aren’t you?”
I uncomfortably pulled the hair that had been tucked behind my ear to cover the side of my face. A certain quality I do when I quickly become uncomfortable.
I struggle with identifying as a photographer because I identified as an athlete for so many years and those days are long gone. Thus, my identity as an athlete is gone. I figure that if I identify as a photographer then that identity might end one day. I obviously live hesitant with my photographic desires because I don’t ever want to lose this cathartic identity.
I force confidence in my tone, “Yeah, I am a photographer. Not full time— but, yes, I- I, take photos.”
I fall to my knees to pet his small horse of a dog.
“His name is Tiny and he will lick your face off if you let him.” I smiled as Tiny laid a fat kiss on the side of my face.
The man continued, “Sweetie…” (I hate when people call me sweetie. The only person who can do that is my dad.) “You aren’t a photographer. You are a photojournalist. Do you know the difference?”
I continued to pet Tiny from the top of his head to the tip of his tail in long strides to make him understand how long and beautiful he was to me.
I look at the man in the eyes and say with a bubbly voice, “I do know the difference. I would love to be a photojournalists. Not a war photojournalist though. There isn’t enough Xanax in the world for me to be a wartime photojournalist. I would totally dig being the President of the United States photographer. Now there is enough Xanax to do that, or maybe there isn’t?” He laughed like a rent-a-Santa Claus that you could find at a mall.
The man then asked me a question that I wish every “photographer” could be asked. “Interesting that you say that, sweetie.” Stop. Calling. Me. Sweetie. “What do you want to be when you are behind your camera?”
“I want to be invisible.” I responded without hesitation, without second guessing myself, and with confidence as if I had been waiting to answer this question for years.
The tall man’s face became wrinkled as he grinned a smile the size of Texas, “Then you my friend, are a photojournalist.”
He winked at me and walked away with Tiny and his cup of coffee.
I sit, in present time, with my mind spinning at 32457684 mph after this interaction with a stranger and his dog!
Call me crazy, or a little hoped up on espresso but I have myself asking questions on questions.
Am I a photographer? One who stages to get the shot.
Or am I a photojournalist? One who captures the moment as it is.
What am I?
What do I want to be?
How do I get there?
What do people see me as?
A stranger labeled me as a photojournalist but my Instagram says photographer. Oh, the agony! Oh, the confusion!