â€œThe Internet is the Great Equalizer,â€ youâ€™ll often hear me say, whether Iâ€™m speaking at a large photography event or just typing words for my blog, books, magazine articles, forum posts, etc. Iâ€™ll be the first to tell you that the Internet did in fact help level the playing field of many professions and Iâ€™m living proof of that based on my own actions in all the years Iâ€™ve been utilizing the power of the World Wide Web to help advance my photography.
I first came on the Internet in the early 1990â€™s, thanks to the military, as a U.S. Army active-duty soldier (combat photographer)â€”a uniform I proudly wore. In the almost nine years of my military service followed by almost nine more years as an U.S. Air Force civilian, I learned many things, including the phrase, â€œperceptions are everything.â€
As with most professions, people will perceive either positive or negative about what an individual does and in the case of the Army, those in combat occupational fields will chastise those in â€œnon-combat armsâ€ specialtiesâ€”I say this from my own experience as I also held a secondary military occupational specialty (MOS), in combat arms. When working in that secondary MOS, it was not uncommon for my infantry comrades to tease these â€œpencil pushers,â€ as they were often called. In fact, these â€œdesk jockeyâ€™sâ€ unearned titles often went to professions that included clerks, administration, journalists, broadcasters, photographers, etc.
â€œNo respect,â€ Rodney Dangerfield would often say, I recently told one of my photography workshop attendees. In fact, I told this military veteran and photographer, Pat Oâ€™Brien, that broadcasters, journalists and photographers often go into the thick of things, the battlefield for you non-military types, often feeling the jokes associated with a desk jockey type perception.
Oâ€™Brien and I are both military veterans and as most veterans do, we often swap war stories. While I have many from my days serving in the Latin America Drug War, Rwanda, Haiti, and even the first Gulf War, I was telling Oâ€™Brien how itâ€™s nothing compared to what the military is facing in Iraq today. Oâ€™Brien agreed as he has first-hand knowledge with his son, Spc. Paul Brown, proudly serving as a combat medic with the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment.
As we continued to talk, I told the elder Oâ€™Brien how those in the visual communication world, like photographers and broadcasters, often find themselves in combat zones and rarely get credit, based simply on perceptions. I then went on to tell him the story of a colleague and friend I once worked with who was recently wounded and almost killed by shrapnel from a mortar attack in Iraq and how Iâ€™m sure when the doctors worked on him to save his life in the battlefield hospital, that no one probably perceived initially that this military patriot was in fact a broadcaster. I then told him how this broadcaster, who is still in the hospital with future scheduled surgeries, Tech. Sgt. Jeramie Brown was being attended to by a military combat photographer, Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi, as the Army medic arrived and saved Brownâ€™s life by applying a tourniquet to Brownâ€™s badly bleeding, shrapnel-torn legs.
Soon, Oâ€™Brien began telling me the story of how his son had recently saved the life of a broadcaster and eventually we realized we were both talking about the same incidentâ€”it truly is a small world as we sometimes perceive.
While Oâ€™Brienâ€™s son did his patriotic duty just like Varhegyi and Brown did too, perceptions will not change soon about the various military occupational fields anymore than the new perceptions individuals and society help create.
Iâ€™m proof of that, as the perception I often hear about myself is that I am whom I am because of the Internet. Many attribute my success in photography to the popular website I initially founded and launched, www.GarageGlamour.com (now www.Glamour1.com). While there is some credit there to be given, I often find ask myself the following questions:
1. Did the almost 30-years as a photographer working in almost 40 countries not add value to my credentials?
2. Did the over 10,000 tearsheets in over 11,000 U.S. newspapers I acquired while working at the Air Force News Agency not count?
3. Did facing dangerous situations as a U.S. Army, active-duty soldier that allowed me to gather danger (combat) pay and tax-free months of income as a combat photographer not count?
4. Did my three years as a photojournalist/Head Photographer title at Victoria High School not count?
5. Did my 26-months covering the Drug War in the early nineties not count?
6. Does the fact that Iâ€™ve obtained credentials and photographed major sports events like the Pan American Olympic Games, the Olympic Games themselves and the recent NBA Playoffs not count?
7. Did my discovery of a Penthouse Pet in 1987 and a Playboy Playmate in 2006 not count?
8. Does my largest tearsheet, a cover-story for Parade Magazine (1999), with a printed circulation of 37-million not count?
9. Does my two books I authored as a photographer and the numerous photography magazine articles I authored not count?
Well if youâ€™ve read my bio on Wikipedia.com youâ€™ll know, the list can go on and on and on but Iâ€™ll spare you that because it will lead people to perceive what they feel is the obvious, whatever that may be.
I close by saying, I too am often caught up in perceiving things based on societal programming and as a human I too have held some wrong perceptions, but ultimately, I credit the ability to see those mistakes and to make the sound and timely decision to correct them on the military–most people will tell you, the military does have itâ€™s way of changing people for the betterâ€”and thereâ€™s no perception there. God bless our troops, their friends and families for all the sacrifices they make, respectfully, rg sends!