My start in photography came way, way back when I landed a part-time job as a reporter at the Ingham County News, a small-circulation weekly in my home town. I was an idealistic student at the time – a journalism major, inspired, like many in those days, by the excellent and serious reporting of the Watergate era. The staff was lean, so taking pictures was part of the job.
But I soon found the work wasn’t quite what I expected. I was assigned to mostly human-interest stuff, a guitar-playing foreign exchange student, a first-person report on a cross country skiing school – not exactly hard-hitting news! They even sent me out one day to photograph a wood pile, made “news” by its pun-y sign: “Wood Knot for Sale.” Silly. But real.
I also photographed the wrecks that documented a 3-month stretch when 18 teenagers died in car accidents in and around our small town; and covered the court case of an abused woman who set her own house on fire, husband and all. Sad… but real.
To some it was small potatoes, but the job taught me to dig for – and chronicle – our community's reality. Today, I think it’s more important than ever to seek out what’s real and true – silly, sad, serious, or otherwise. And, photos play a more powerful role than ever in our visual, social culture where it's often hard to know whose reporting to trust.
I’ve lived in Chicago for nearly 40 years now, and reality at the grassroots level still captures my eye. Here are some images I've been collecting as evidence of the good going on in my world.