Working Photographer looks at the turbulent world of editorial photography through the eyes of someone been working at it for forty years -- and hopes to stay active for a lot longer. A quarter of a century at National Geographic has taught me to stay nimble and keep growing. That's what this blog is about.
Some years ago Tom Kennedy, then director of photography at National Geographic Magazine, gave me my first assignment in Scotland. What a gift. I've returned to Scotland over and over, and relished every minute of it.
Out of a profound sense of journalistic duty during that first assignment I gave myself the task of learning all I could about the whisky industry. That led me, by and by, to the Lagavulin distillery warehouse on the Isle of Islay, a heavenly job if ever there was one. The "angel's share" waft heavily over us as we stepped into the musty warehouse, lined with rows upon rows of whisky casks, quietly and patiently biding their time till the whisky was just right for bottling. In the case of Lagavulin that would be 16 years. (And nothing less.)
After getting the shot all lined up and the lighting set and tested the stillman pulled out a hefty sample of the aging single malt and took a wee sip, noting that all was well and it could go back to sleep. Then he turned to me and asked if I'd like a sample my self! Well, yes, actually I would. It was wonderful, even if it was only 15 years old. Then the sample, germs and all went back into the cask (where the alcohol would have another year to make sure it was all quite sterile and safe.)
But I'm haunted, all these years later, by the journalistic ethics of taking that wee dram. Should I have refused? Should I have payed? Was I corrupted? (Actually I had been corrupted long before that.) These are the things I ponder as I sit here tonight, dreaming of the distilleries of Islay, nursing a wee dram of the Lagavulin, and trying in vain to muster up a healthy dose of guilt.