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Newspaper Journalism - The Photography Stringer

Updated on January 8, 2013

Introduction - Content Created By Christopher Boswell

So, you want to be a published photographer? Do you dream about picking up that rolled up paper that lands on your front porch and seeing one of your photographs there? Well, I sure did, and as some of you may already know well, YOU CAN! Now please hear me, because as a teen and beyond, I never listened when people told me "you can do anything". Often, I'm astounded at how easy many things are and wonder why I did not try sooner. The image featured left is from the Gig Harbor Gateway here in Puget Sound Washington. It was taken a handful of years ago on a stormy night over the Tacoma Narrow's Bridge that connects the Peninsula to the mainland. After photographing it I simply called the newspaper and told them what I had and asked "are you interested"? The answer was yes, I knew it would be because this wasn't my first time. If you would like to hear more about the first "COVER" please read on....

Wikipedia says:

In journalism, a stringer is a freelance journalist or photographer who contributes reports or photos to a news organization on an ongoing basis but is paid individually for each piece of published or broadcast work.[1]

The Decision to Pursue Photography

Way back then my career had taken me to the East Coast, Philadelphia to be exact as a Restaurant Manager. Now this is a fine career, but I had been doing it for a dozen years, and in places that served alcohol and stayed open late. The were fights, late nights, and even arrests of staff and patrons, I'd had enough, and with no clue what to do next, I wondered down to Washington DC on vacation. It was there that a message just came to me, something happened. My Father had given me a second hand pawn shop SLR Minolta, the SRT101 model for my 13th birthday. So, I was not a stranger to photography and had taken pictures in school, and in my twenties.

Suddenly, struck by the historic buildings all around me I felt creative. At that moment, I realized I did not have a camera! MY Father's gift had been stolen years before, cameras had come and gone, I had lost my creative self and forgotten photography. Dumbfounded, I headed right to the department store and bought another Minolta, the X-700, a camera that would serve me for nearly a decade, I still own it today. When I arrived back downtown, a Klu Klux Klan rally had materialized, and I found myself right in the middle of a riot, literally. It was crazy, very dangerous, I won't go into all that here, but I was hooked, I now knew my new profession. The name for my business immediately appeared in my head, excited I returned home to Philadelphia the next day ordered business cards, acting as if it were already true, then pondered what to do next.

Back at Home in Philadelphia

Had to work that day, it's just been 24 hours. I came home, sat in my basement and wondered. How does a guy break into photography? I had not a clue, grabbing the want ads I saw zero jobs listed for the creative endeavor, nothing like the restaurant biz, always hiring. It appeared I had a problem, and I'm not even sure how it came to me, but I ended up at Radio Shack that night. Returning home, I plugged in a new Police and Fire Scanner, then began listening. Fate was about to intervene changing my direction in life.

Home From Work 48 hours After the Riot

Excited to return home and listen to the scanner, I did just that. The riot had shown me a few things, new sells and although I had heard the term "ambulance chaser" and did not want to be one, it's all I could come up with at that time. Within an hour a call came over the speaker about a possible serious automobile accident with injuries, it was only one block away, I went. Upon arrival, I noticed the ambulance had already been there and was leaving, there was a car, and women hugging and sobbing. I had no clue what to do, nothing seemed photogenic. It was sad, I was confused, then a felt a finger touch my shoulder heard a voice "are you a photographer"? She said, looking at the camera in my hand, I muttered, "Yeah", desperate, she believed me, funny huh?

A writer from the Northeast Times News Weekly, I don't even think she asked me, the next thing I know she was handing me film, telling me her camera had been forgotten, directing me to take a few pictures and place them in the night drop over at the paper. Guess What, it was only a block away too, this was getting a little weird. Walking away she said, "if we use any I'll pay you $25.00 per picture". It was apparently on, my photography career had begun, even if I didn't know it. I did as she asked, shooting a few pictures of the two women embracing, and the front of the car that had a little dent in it. A boy had been struck riding his bicycle, the driver and the boy's mother ended up in the photos. The very next day my phone rang, it was a man name John S, he said "Thanks for covering the accident, I really love your eye, how would you like to come work for us at the paper"? I tried to contain my surprise, my reply came, "how is the boy"? he was fine, in the next month one of my images would hit the cover, it resides below.

Sorbee Candy Fire - Christopher Boswell

Now were having fun! Guess where this paper is distributed? The entry to the restaurant I managed had a big pile of them delivered every week, the staff all got to see my moonlighting evidence, all the sudden I had new popularity. Several of them were interested in photography or modeling and wanted to talk to me. This fueled my passion even further, it all seemed so perfect. The next few years were filled with assignments scheduled on my off time. Enough money was made to buy new equipment, soon I figured how to shoot good enough, inside spreads were created that paid per picture. So, 4 images could get me $100.00 and it might only take an hour to cover, I loved it. Best of all Covers paid $100 each!

Susan Ford Bales

Naturally, my plan was now to get covers and inside spreads, attempting to multiply the paychecks. As soon as my attention was on that, it occurred. Opportunities came to photograph celebrities, dignitaries, and presidents, even today I look back at this experience and wonder how it happened.

During all that pondering, I created a story, it must have been meant to be, a calling, that's what it has become, my job to document things. Many lessons were learned during this period, photography would become a nurturing and supporting friend, always ready to lift my spirit and provide creative satisfaction.

Charles Barkley in Flight

Charles Barkley in Flight
Charles Barkley in Flight

I'm Getting Longwinded

Soon, I would leave Philadelphia, move to Washington DC, work for another paper, and one year later move west to Seattle. It was time to take on other projects, ONE job did show up in the paper, so I went and got offered the position. Now, directing a portrait gallery to sharpen my skills. Most things I tried seemed to work out while holding a camera, I'm so grateful. Newspapers were fun, but my sights were on the future, books and magazines needed my photos. A new plan was formulated, more people showed up to support me, and I was able to share some more pictures. ~ Click image to frame this piece! ~

If your inspired, the entry point I took could be a little different today. The world has changed, the internet you are enjoying here has effected the newspaper business, images are still needed, weekly papers still exist, but fewer. The good news is, venues online have increased exponentially. Images are in demand today more than ever, if you shoot it with good composition, well lit, people will come to experience your unique vision. Some links below could help your start.

Strom Over Puget Sound in Jpeg Magazine

One of the best things about getting published in a magazine with world wide publication is a pleasant surprise. Often, as you may know, artists and photographers do not receive the support of family because many artists have historically struggled financially. Their best advise is often "when are you going to get a real job" However, this could change dramatically when one of your relatives can purchase a book or magazine and place it on their coffee table. It's a transformation I would love everyone to experience, all you have to do is find yourself some light and share it! The rest will take care of itself.

The Most Critical Thing GET STARTED!

Thanks for Reading this!


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