Hurry Up and Wait
Jonathon Gruenke is currently a photographer at the Kalamazoo Gazette. After graduating Central Michigan University in 2006 with a major in journalism and Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts, Gruenke interned at the Saginaw Daily News and then the Kalamazoo Gazette. There was an opening at the end of his internship, so he applied and got a job as a photographer and has been working there ever since. The Kalamazoo Gazette is a daily newspaper that is printed out of Grand Rapids.
I job shadowed Gruenke last Thursday. We covered two of his assignments. The first was a continuation of a project he has been working on for over a year. There was an oil spill in nearby Marshal. The oil spread down river to a recreational lake in Kalamazoo. Recently, Gruenke went up in a helicopter to get aerial views of the clean up process. Thursday we went out trying to get the close-up ground views of the process. The problem: the company doesn’t like pictures being taken. Went around for two hours trying to find an area that had a good view of the work and that wasn’t been blocked off by the company. We finally found a place on the other side of the lake that was property owned by the city. We were shooting there for approximately 15 minutes before a boat came up and told us this was private property and that we had to leave at which point Gruenke and the man, who refused to give his name, argued. Gruenke got the shot he needed so we left after they did.
The second assignment I went to with Gruenke was the Kalamazoo Central High School football game against Loy Norrix.
I learned a lot from Gruenke. Not so much the technical aspects like editing photos but more of what I guess you would call real world application. I learned that you can’t just expect things to work out or not work out. He had been told multiple times that he shouldn’t be shooting the area where the oil spill occurred but he was persistent and got the job done. I also learned that this profession isn’t always glamorous (which I knew but had never really experienced before). Waiting two hours in a buggy area on hot, humid day just to get a shot of an excavator is not exactly a highlight of the photojournalism career field. We also got yelled at. It may have been my first time but I know it won’t be my last. It was a good experience to see how to handle the situation.
The best part for me was actually in the news room. Gruenke and his photo editor met with the editor and the page designer to decide which photos would be best for the story. The idea to do a follow up story a year later on the effects and continuing clean up of the oil spill was Gruenke’s idea. He took the initiative to go up in the helicopter, presented the idea to his editor, and made something out of it. The end result was a photo package in the Sunday paper and an online photo gallery. I loved being able to see the process a photographer has to go through to get his own ideas shown. It was also nice to see that it’s not just getting handed out assignments but also generating your own.
Persistence is mostly what I’m taking away from this. You can’t just give up on something because it’s too difficult or someone tells you no. There is always a way to work it out but it’s going to take work and you can’t give up on it. Beside that Gruenke other words of advice was to shoot. Shoot everything and anything. The more you shoot the better you get. So go out and shoot!
The one thing that stood out to me that can’t be covered in a classroom is how the news industry has dropped. Yes every professor will tell you that it’s a dying industry and that jobs are few and far between but until I saw it for myself I didn’t really comprehend it. The Kalamazoo Gazette has a beautiful office with a fully functioning printing press that is no longer in use. The printing machine is to be broken down and sold for parts and the office building is to be sold because it is just too big of a building for the few people that work there. At the same time, it showed the industry is not dead. If I work hard to become the best then there will still be jobs out there I’m just going to have to work hard for them.