April 7th, 2008
I met him about a year ago, in a coffee shop, on the recommendation of an acquaintance. She said he was fresh out of school, into photography, and looking for direction. I’ve been there and while I didn’t choose the most expedient path to full-time photography (nor the most profitable), I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way; from my experience or from the more experienced. I didn’t know what I could offer him, but at least I could meet him.
Of Asian ancestry, Andrew Hida grew up in Hawaii; he fronts a surf-skate image, glorifies the near-water qualities of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and for him everything is “sweet” as in, “leave your sweet email” or “take a sweet break” or just plain “pretty sweet.” But do not be fooled by the lingo or laid-back attitude; I’ve seen him learn and work with intelligence and diligence. It’s kind of hard for me to fathom this, seeing as I feel I’m just bumbling along in my career, but I believe I’ve ended up in a mentor’s role for Andrew.
What I can say with confidence is in the year I’ve known him I’ve watched his photographic style change, his development of story concepts improve and, above all, his commitment to the craft of documentary project photography. He even called me the other day to discuss a revelation he had on the bus: documentary photography doesn’t happen by sitting at home waiting for it, you have to go out and do it, be in it, and push those doors open.
Sounds simple, but working on project means you’ve got to sell it to yourself before you can get on the phone and cold-call someone with much greater power, prestige, and stature than yourself to say “um, can I take your picture?” And the same goes for the core subjects of the story; the relationship you build with them is one of trust and the understanding that you’re bearing witness to their life with the purpose of sharing it with others. So you must be confident in yourself that you can do this, for they are relying on you.
I believe Andrew has come a long distance from his travel and street photography to being able to see an opportunity that supports his project on Traumatic Brain Injury, negotiate the access, and then spend five days completely immersed with a family struggling through the aftermath of the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. A year ago he could not have done this. Dare I say I’m proud of him?
View this multimedia short of the ongoing project “Slow Healing.”
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