Meet photographer Tony Blei Part 2

4. Did you have to work a lot of weekends, evenings and did you have to miss some very important milestones in your family life?
When my son was two, he developed a tumor that was severe enough that we had to take him from our home in Nevada to UCLA Medical Center where he was operated on and fully recovered.

During recovery, my wife needed a lot of help. My photo editor felt that the best thing for my family was to put me on nights and weekends. When you’re the new guy, you get nights and weekends.

The great thing about nights and weekends is that is where you can shine. It’s all you!

You are a visual problem solver and you are making news content decisions regarding the next day’s paper. Many industries have night and weekend shifts.

Learn to suck it up and pay your dues.

5.Are there certain aspects of your genre of photography that can only be learned through experience and not through a book?
There is a reason we all chant the mantra: Shoot, shoot, shoot.

What I do for a living simply involves photography, but more than anything, it’s ALL about the people.

Psychologist can learn about various types of people from school, but it isn’t until they actually get out and meet people that they fully develop.

Photography is just like that.

No book can teach you how to deal with a grieving widow — or how to follow focus a 400mm lens on a running back. Ya gotta get your feet wet!

6. Tell us about your most mentally difficult assignment.
Marketing and business development.

Even if I had gone to college for photography, this would still be the case, because (until recently) schools never taught ways for photographers to pay back their student loans.

They just showed technique and hopefully helped develop a student’s photographic vision.

I can’t stress how important it is to learn the business of photography. Taking pictures is the easy part.

Now I know that wasn’t the answer you were looking for so lemme see if I can dig up something juicy.

The Rodney King Riots. That was probably the most mentally difficult assignment of my life — and I wasn’t even in Los Angeles.

What people don’t realize was that the night of the LA riots, rioting broke out in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The windows on coworker’s cars were smashed and shot. A reporter was cut up and had to go to the ER (where he began interviewing other injured people while waiting to be stitched up).

I personally witnessed cars being overturned and set on fire in the middle of intersections and project housing burning to the ground as the fire department had stopped responding (because as they would arrive, snipers would open fire on the firefighters).

With a 300mm f/2.8 lens (and Kodak P3200 “Magic Film”) I drove around and photographed all night.

The stress was intense and once, when seeking shelter, pulled into a police command post where every Kevlar-clad cop drew an M-16 and had it pointed either at my head or my chest. I’m tellin’ ya, that will make your navel pucker in the blink of an eye.

After things quieted down, I went back to the paper, developed film and input images for the next day’s paper. It was 2 a.m., and I made arrangements to catch a helicopter at 6 a.m., so I could fly over Las Vegas and photograph the damage from the air then rush back to the paper to make deadline.

Meanwhile, the photo editor had left HOURS before and wasn’t coming in the next day because he wanted to go fishing (he’s no longer a photographer or has anything to do with news). The end—Tony Blei

tony blei

Missed Part 1?

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