Pay it Forward

In 2012 the Ball State football team traveled to Bloomington to face off against Indiana. The Cardinals were underdogs, despite the Hoosiers' poor record in football as a whole. 

As a the assistant photo editor at the Ball State Daily News, I got to be one of the lucky photographers to cover that game, but this post is not about my experience covering a football game, but more about the experience that came in the media room, before the game even started. 

In many ways, I'm a confident person. I'm not afraid to speak my mind to those over me when I feel like it's warranted. I am not worried about posting my personal opinions on social media such as Twitter, even though I use it to promote my work. 

The one situation I can truly point to in which my nerves tend to fail me is when I'm working around older, well regarded photographers. There's something about being around experienced photographers that immediately takes me back to that feeling of being a kid on the first day of school, or a high schooler during their first day on the job. 

Even to this day, as I write this, I'm 25 years-old and I still feel like an inexperienced snot nosed kid when I walk into press boxes at big games, or at large news events. 

With that in mind, imagine if you will the day I walked into the media workroom at Memorial Stadium, just to see seasoned photographers from the Indianapolis Star, the Bloomington Times-Herald, the AP and Getty. I felt like I needed to raise my hand to go to the bathroom. 

As I began to unpack my gear, I noticed that I had forgotten a trivial piece to my Nikon D300. I can't even remember what it was at the time, but with my nerves racked and me being the young gear crazy person I was at the time, it seemed like a big enough deal for me at the time to look at my friend and make note of it. 

Next to me, a photographer with the Indy Star and the USA Today Network, by the name of Matt Kryger, overheard this conversation. 

"You forgot something," he asked. 

"Yeah," I replied. 

"And you only have one camera body?"

"Yeah, the school rental place closed early this weekend so I couldn't get anything." 

"Well, I still have the two Nikon D4's that Gannett sent me to the London Olympics with. Do you want to use my Nikon D3s then you can use that for your main camera and the D300 as your backup body?" 

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'd never met Matt before. I didn't even know his name. And here he was, offering to let me use a pro-level flagship body. Feel free to compare the Nikon D3s with the D300. 

It was like being handed the keys to a Ferrari, by Niki Lauda.

Because of Matt, and the camera he lent me for the night, I was able to capture a photo that to this day is still in my portfolio. 

That act of generosity has always stuck with me. 

When I first started college as a photojournalism major, I met more than one person who told me that they had gotten out of the photography business simply because it was too much of a cutthroat business. I was warned that to get ahead in my career I'd have to step on people and stab them in the back. 

So far, I've found the opposite to be true. The best photographers I know, and it's not just me who says so, they have awards a plenty to go along with my praises, have always seemed to be the most generous with their time, their advice and their willingness to help other shooters out. 

At a recent Indianapolis Colts game I worked for Getty, I worked with a photographer by the name of Stacey Revere, who broke into photojournalism five years ago after spending his life working offshore and construction in New Orleans. 

"You know, the best advice I can give people getting into this is don't be an asshole," he said to me as we ate before the game. "I mean, yeah. You need to take good pictures, do good work. But as long as you work hard and you're not a jerk, people know that and they're willing to help you out. But if you're an ass, you better be absolutely perfect, because people will look for opportunities to boot you." 

That's a philosophy I've tried to follow in just about everything I've done in life, and though I may not have always succeeded, I still try to live up to it as best as I can. 

I recently ran back into Matt Kryger thanks to my freelancing work with Getty and the first thing I thought of was that I had to make sure to tell him how much of an impact he had made on me back on that chilly night in 2012. 

"You probably don't remember me, but you let me use a Nikon D3s during the game between IU and Ball State football back in 2012." 

"I remember," he said with a smile. 

I told him that that experience had helped to shape the way that I dealt with any younger photographers I ran into during my time out and about. And it had truly helped me from getting discouraged when I ran into the rare photographer who couldn't be bothered with making room on the sidelines, or being mean to those they deemed beneath them.

I really didn't know how to thank him. 

"You know what man, just pay it forward, if you can. Just be sure to do the same thing for someone else next time you get the chance."