One of my favourite success stories was told to me many years ago over the phone by one of Canada’s most well-known photographers, Freeman Patterson. During the 1960s, Patterson was pursuing photography professionally and barely making ends meet. He had a photograph published in a Canadian magazine and that in turn attracted the attention of an American photo magazine that requested the use of the photo for a short feature on Canadian photographers. Said Mr. Patterson, “It was reproduced in black and white and the size of a postage stamp. I thought to myself, ‘Well, that’s a fine kettle of fish.’” What he didn’t know was that his tiny monochrome photograph caught the eye of Lorraine Monk, the editor-in-chief of the National Film Board of Canada’s centennial project, “Canada: A Year of the Land.” It was to be a monster coffee table book of Canadian landscape and nature photographs and Lorraine Monk wanted Freeman Patterson to be a part of it. She sent several copies of a letter to photo labs across the country asking the letter to be given to Freeman Patterson if he came to the lab. He did receive the letter and it requested him to send 100 slides for review for the project. This initial submission of images led to a request for more and an assignment shooting Prairie scenes for the book. The end result was that Mr. Patterson’s photographs filled nearly a third of the book even though dozens of photographers had participated. It wasn’t that his career skyrocketed after that, but it did give him a very big boost.
I always keep this story in mind when I have my work published somewhere. Each time I hold a magazine or calendar with my photographs inside, I hope the next time I check my email there will be requests for my skills. And that may have almost occurred at last. Not that I have been asked to participate in some extravagant expenditure of government funds for a national celebration of natural beauty. But there may be something afoot.
Last month my photographs and story about the 3/11 earthquake appeared in Gakujin magazine. Then about two weeks ago, I received a message from a cameraman working for NHK (Japan’s national broadcasting corporation) in Niigata. He complimented my photography and story and mentioned that he was looking for foreign thoughts and views of Japan after the nuclear power plant disaster. I replied asking how I might help him. A week later he sent another message to me asking if I had plans to go out and shoot autumn scenery in Japan and where I was thinking to go and if I was considering how the earthquake/power plant disaster might have affected the area I was planning to photograph. I replied again and this led to a few messages being exchanged before he finally said something to the effect of NHK planning to run a feature on Japanese autumn leaves and it might be possible that I might be part of the feature and they might go to where I was planning to photograph. He was discussing the idea with his superior and trying to see what they could put together. Whether this means an interview or filming me shooting on location or perhaps just a glimpse of me on the scene is not clear by his message. But somehow he is thinking to include me.
Well, it’s not the first time I have heard that I might be featured shooting. I once proposed an idea to an editor of a photo magazine I had met and he suggested sending a writer out to watch me shoot and to record and report on what I was doing. But the plug got pulled on the idea and in the end I gave an interview in a coffee shop. So, I can’t say I am putting much hope in anything coming out of this. But on the other hand it’s nice to know that a published article and photographs got the attention of someone who then wanted to do something further with me. Additionally, I was all but giving up on going out this autumn due to financial setbacks. But now instead of making excuses to stay home and let the cameras rest I might just have a reason to take them out for some fresh air and exercise.