From capturing some of Michael Jordan’s career highlights to being blessed by Pope John Paul II whilst assigned to a photo position, Photojournalist Gary Bogdon has a rich collection of memories and life lessons to share with us.
With Gary’s incredible experience and knowledge, having our Photographic Journeys hosted by him is an honor for us and a delight for our guests with a passion for photography. We hope you enjoy today’s Q&A with Photojournalist Gary Bogdon!
What exactly is a photojournalist?
A photojournalist is a visual storyteller, using images instead of words to convey the story. Photojournalists never stage a photo, but capture real life events as they occur. Using a creative eye, sharp reporting skills and a tremendous about of hustle to be in the right place at the right time.
I had a passion for photojournalism right from the start— working for my high school newspaper, and lucky to have had great mentors in the business. I worked my way through college as a freelancer for the Louisville Courier Journal and national news publications such as Time and Newsweek. After college, working at large metropolitan newspapers around the country as a staffer, immersed me into every imaginable situation. From sport to riots to politics and more. I loved the variety and the pressure of thinking on my feet. Making amazing photographs of real people, events, sports, breaking news and celebrities.
Eventually I left the news business and became a contract photographer at Sports Illustrated. There I traveled the country covering the world’s most famous sporting events including The Kentucky Derby, The Super Bowl, NBA Championships, The Olympics, Collegiate Football PGA Tour and NASCAR. I also made portraits of some of the most famous athletes in the world and worked on in-depth investigative sports stories as well.
I’ve enjoyed each step of my career and still get excited whenever the phone rings for my next adventure. I’m doing so many different things now it’s still very refreshing to create. A photojournalist is always looking for the moment, that one moment in time, that captures the emotion, action or locations in the best light — that’s when you know you’ve hit a home run!
You’ve travelled to many countries and destinations documenting moments we can’t even begin to grasp. What keeps you going on bad photo days?
I think every photojournalist or photographer experiences a ‘bad photo’ day. Perhaps the weather is bad, or the light is just not right, or the timing is off. But I’ve always tried to look at everything as a glass half full. A great photographer must be able to constantly adapt and change —pivot for the situation at hand.
Some of my best images, or at least my most memorable ones, didn’t come when everything was “perfect.” They were made when I had to be more flexible. Having to choose a different spot or angle due to some unforeseen circumstances. Or often, the weather changed or something unexpected happened. And my photo turned out better than I anticipated.
Thinking on your feet is critical. And for me, this uncertainty always makes it an exciting and unpredictable challenge — that can lead to the most unique photos.
You're working with Art In Voyage on the development of several more Photography Journeys. What made you go from photographing people to capturing some of the most beautiful places in the World?
I’ve been so lucky to travel to so many beautiful places around the world. Over the years, I’ve done so much destination, resort and travel photography. I’ve never stopped seeing each new location with wonder and amazement. It makes life rich and interesting and further ignites my passion to explore. I love getting up before dawn to capture the perfect light at an amazing destination. Waiting for the magic light just after dusk is equally as exciting.
I’ve always had a love of meeting and talking with people from different walks of life, either in the US or abroad. I always return home with a new set of friends that I’ve ‘collected’ from my travels. Those are treasured as much as the photos I bring back.
Visiting new and interesting places in the world and being able to take other photography enthusiasts along with me is great fun! I show them how I think creatively, work with the light and adjust to the weather conditions to get the right shot. It’s exciting to see the “lightbulb” moment go off in their heads when they get “the shot!” Teaching and mentoring others has always been a passion, and now I’m getting a chance to do it.
To that effect, what places have you traveled to that you’d include in your TOP 5?
It’s hard to make a definitive Top Five – but I would say that photographically for me, some of the best places I’ve traveled so far are: Costa Rica. Hawaii (especially Kauai). Spain (Barcelona in particular). India (Mumbai is fascinating). And Russia (St Petersburg). I also love the National Parks in the US and especially the parks out West.
We understand you have photographed some very famous people during your career. Any interesting, or maybe fun, story you’d love to share?
I’ve had a very interesting career for sure – but I think a couple of my most interesting moments would be:
Covering Pope John Paul II’s visit to the US in 1986 in San Francisco. I was assigned a ‘photo position’ in the front pews of the church to document the religious ceremony that was about to take place. As The Pope arrived and blessed the entire front row of worshipers and dignitaries, he was supposed to stop at the aisle just in front of the photographers, then return to the altar. As he got to the aisle, he didn’t stop as planned but turned and came towards me. Out of respect, I eventually put my camera down because he was standing right in front of me. He reached out and personally blessed me and several other photographers that day. I will never forget that moment.
I’ve photographed many top athletes during my career from the Olympics or NBA Finals and other major events. But I would say if there was one athlete who had a special ‘aura’ – that is Michael Jordan. I first photographed him in 1984 during the US Olympic basketball trials, before he was drafted in the NBA by the Chicago Bulls.
I photographed him many more times over the years playing in the NBA for the Bulls. At the end of his career I worked with Nike and MJ documenting his fantasy basketball camp when he brought together a ‘Who’s Who’ of Hall of Fame basketball coaches from the NBA and college. Photographing his career from start to finish was pretty exciting. He was super professional, very intense on the court and he would find a way to win no matter who he was playing against, and no one wanted to win more than MJ did!
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many things, and not all of them big. I still get excited about photographing a new location or landscape that I’ve never seen before, or showing someone else how to make some magic with their camera for the first time. My passion for being a photographer is the same today as it was in college and high school. Every time I get to go out and make story telling pictures I consider myself very lucky.
My kids and my wife of 28 years who shares a passion to explore are a huge inspiration for me too.
I love people and learning about their own personal story, that inspires me as well!