In “Getting Started 1: Creating a portfolio / The Magnum job” I wrote about my plans with Magnum and how I created my portfolio. Today I’ll let you know how things went on after I had my portfolio in hand.
The way to my first assignment
The first thing I did with my portfolio was to meet a friend of mine who is photographer as well. I met Felicitas Kruse for the first time about a year and a half ago when we were photographing the funeral of Austrian President Thomas Klestil who died two days before the end of his incumbency. We’ve been the only photographers with small film based cameras in a crowd of photographers with digital SLRs and long telephoto lenses… Anyway. Felicitas stopped to work as a photojournalist some months ago to dedicate her time to personal projects. Seemingly she decided for some reason to take care of me and my photographic career. Good for me. We’ve been talking about the situation for photographers in Austria, where to go, whom to approach, whom to meet and so on. She gave me a list of Names and contacts which I thankfully took.
First I called Heribert Corn, a photographer who is working a lot for Vienna’s city newspaper “Falter” among others. “Falter” is a pretty good paper to start working for. They are political, write about topics other papers wouldn’t write about, they have a wide distribution in Austria and they print the photographers credits as big as no other paper does.
I met Heribert Corn already once before my departure to New York about 8 months ago. I showed him my portfolio with old black and white photographs and asked him if there would be any chance for me to start working for “Falter”. He liked it and said that we should give it a try. Well a week later I sat on the plane to New York and I didn’t hear Heribert again for the next 8 months.
When I called him before Christmas he said that he was really happy that I called. Another photographer who followed my blog told him that I wouldn’t come back to Vienna. Well I did and so we met the same day, I showed him my new portfolio, he liked it and told me that he’ll call me once there is an assignment for me.
The first assignment
Two days later (Friday) my cell phone rang in the afternoon and it was Heribert Corn with my first assignment. He told me about an article that was about to be published in the next issue of “Falter”. An article about one of Europes largest and most modern logistics-centers for the distribution of packages by the post. The editor visited this center already before and needed a picture or two for the article. I was told that they needed images showing the size of the place, the packages and that it wouldn’t be wrong to see workers on these images as well.
I called the contact I got from the post-office and wanted to arrange an appointment. Press date for the next “Falter” issue was Monday noon. So I had two and a half days left. Since there wasn’t much going on in this logistics-center on the weekend I arranged to come over this evening. They told me that 6 p.m. was the best time to come since most packages arrive at that time.
No sooner said than done! I was parking my car in front of this huge hall in the south of Vienna at 6 p.m., had my camera equipment ready and smoked one last cigarette before my first “real” assignment. Ok, I was nervous. I was really nervous. I knew that it shouldn’t be too hard for me to deliver decent pictures for this half page article. I knew that the printing quality of the paper is poor and would therefore cover parts of bad pictures. But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to do a good job. Hey, it’s my first assignment and I want to get further ones.
So I went inside the building and met the man who was responsible for the operations there. I asked him to show me around and explain me how everything works. After our trip around I told him that I would prefere to walk around myself to take some time to photograph. He agreed. So there I was standing in the middle of this huge hall, the machinery, the packages and about 80 people spread all over the place. I decided to start by walking around a little more. I wanted to talk to the clerks who worked there first in order to let them know what I was doing. My advantage was that I worked at a post office myself about 7 years ago. So I had something to start talking about. They’ve been a little suspicious in the beginning but opened up once we talked a little longer. Some of those people told me at the end that they’ve been really surprised that I actually took the time to talk to them and listen to the problems they have at work. A couple of photographers have been there before but they rushed in, took some pictures and left again.
To make a long story short: I spend almost 7 hours there and took a whole bunch of pictures. Lightning conditions have been pretty damn bad. There was much halogen light coming from the ceilings but at the same time there was almost no light underneith the machinery where a lot of people worked. So contrasts have been high. I had to shoot with 1600 ISO and 1/15 to 1/60 of a second… Back home I downloaded all the RAW files onto my laptop and started to edit through.
No photos that I would put in my portfolio or onto my portfolio website but good enough for this job. The editor was happy although they would have prefered to have some more shots where one can actually see the size of this hall.
And this is the article with my photograph that was published 5 days later. I would have choosen another image but that was not in my field of competence. And don’t ask for the payment, you’d start to cry.
More news and more informations on what else was or is going on in a couple of days.