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Photography Provides Opportunity
by Sharon Hawkins

Mathew Yeo arrived at the scene of the only major fire in his hometown in twenty years, to see photographers from competing papers taking pictures of the burning apartment building. Mathew, a writer, proceeded to interview and photograph the people affected by the blaze. He wrote an article on the family that had no insurance and had lost all their possessions in the fire. With his article he had heart-rending pictures such as the crying young woman in a housecoat. Other writers focused on the physical event. Mathew's pictures enabled him to write the human story.

Inspired by his mother, a professional photographer, Mathew had earlier decided to learn photography to add to his existing writing talents.

I quizzed Mathew on the importance of photography for writers.

"My photography experience got me a job working for the local newspaper," he said. It "allowed them to pay only one guy to do both jobs -- which they loved."

If Mathew had not been a photographer as well as a writer, his editor would have had to send an additional person to the scene of the fire. Mathew's pictures and words reinforce each other, achieving greater impact than if two individuals had done the writing and the pictures separately.

Photographs taken by the writer can also help a reader envision something that is difficult to explain. Do-it-yourself articles usually need photographs to explain procedures or show parts that have names not known to a novice. Mathew states for a beginner starting any project "photographs can make all the difference in whether they understand what you are trying to say or whether they go and buy another magazine."

Mathew says that while his photography skills may not have increased the range of subjects he writes about, they have increased the likelihood of being chosen over other writers vying for the editor's attention. "If you can save an editor effort you are automatically on his or her good side."

He adds that for a writer, photography can be an additional source of income. "Most magazines have separate pay scales for pictures and print." Sometimes you can resell pictures without having to write an article.

Photography in some ways is very much like writing. It, too, has to be composed and made appealing to the audience. Photography, like writing, requires a keen eye. In fact, photography can sharpen the writer's eye by increasing visual awareness.

Photography can help writers see a whole different world -- one that is richer, more varied, and certainly more colorful.

Mathew believes taking quality photographs is a learnable skill for writers. Learning to use a camera he states takes only hands on practice. There are books that describe the different elements of the camera and their functions so the inexperienced could quickly be up and running in photography.

The next time an opportunity presents itself, and it needn't be a fire -- it could be an article on the local rose garden -- take your camera with you to provide that extra leverage to your article. It might help you get the editor's attention.

© Copyright 1999, Sharon Hawkins

Sharon Hawkins is a freelance writer living in sunny Queensland, Australia. Her recent work has entertained readers of Top Dog, Rootes, and Australian Family Tree Connections.

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