Q&A with Photojournalist Gary Bogdon
April 27, 2020
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
If today's Q&A with Photojournalist Gary Bogdon has left you feeling inspired to join him on an Art in Voyage photographic journey, take a look at his upcoming journeys here: