Once, decades ago, the Chief Photographer at the newspaper where I worked asked me a question that has remained in my thought-processor to emerge every once in awhile:
“Do you want to be a Photographer? Or just a Pitcha-taker.?”
At the time I had only recently began providing photos to accompany my news stories. I had a Yashika-Mat camera, which I had bought for the purpose. It cost $85, which was a considerable amount of money for me, but in retrospect it was a good investment, because during the years I used it, the Yashika paid for itself many times over. I was supporting five children with my earnings as a reporter for the newspaper, and for two years in 1970-1972 my meager pay was most of the time my sole source of income.
At that time I had no formal education beyond high school, although fortunately I had some ability to write cohesive articles and took to news reporting like an Owl to being a bookstore mascot. For 18 years my career as a Journalist survived without higher education. I’m a quick learner, more or less, and passed my trial-by-fire–a tax levy meeting by our local Save Our Schools (SOS) committee and the school board. This was a momentous occasion in shaping the rest of my life beyond then. That meeting coverage, and a feature story anout a meeting at the State Prison Farm, directly led to my position as a reporter.
In October of 1972 (he 28th, forty-three years ago today, in fact) I got remarried. I continued with the newspaper part-time, until my decision to enter community college…to see If I could cope with all that entailed. But that’s another story…
Back in the day of film cameras…which was really not so long ago…my work film was developed and printed by the newspaper photo lab, and I did not do much private family/kids/travel work on company time. Most of those photo shoots featured my late husband’s photos taken with his Konicas and/or others of his cameras…he had been into photography since he was in France during World War II, and did his own developing and printing back then. (Before my time.) Then when we began traveling extensively, we bought roll film and sent it away to be developed and printed. It would take a few days or a week to return.
My skills at photography never really excelled, for a couple of reasons. One is that I did not take the time required to learn technical details of appropriate exposure techniques. The cost involved with print film was also high, so I did not experiment with the camera like I do now in the advent of digital photography. So that meant that the best photos we had…and the greatest number…were Bob’s. We did some Sunday spreads featuring his photography, and my writing.
Photographer or Pitcha-taker? The difference being that a photographer will take the time and effort to acquire as much knowledge and practical skills as possible, and apply it to his or her work. The Photographer works toward capturing the nuances and minute details of the subject, and fuss about color saturation and light conditions, etc., in order to produce work that is as esthetically pleasing as possible.
A Pitcha-taker, on the other hand, points the camera lens at the subject–and shoots. The Pitcha-taker has albums which include coat sleeves, sun-glare, hands in front of faces, cut off heads, weird colors, and pictures of Aunt Bessie with her eyes closed or her mouth out-of-joint. Over-exposed, under-exposed…all kinds of issues that ruin their photos.
Not to say that the Photographer, even professionals, don’t make mistakes…they just discard the “bad” shots, rather than showing them off to audiences and apologizing for their bad quality, as the pitcha-takers do: “Ok, this should have been a really good photo, but this lady moved out of the frame too quickly…see her hat? It was really a nice blue. Sorry its blurry..”