One of the best ways to start a career in photography has traditionally been to get a job as a newspaper/wire service shooter. If one survives the very irreverent dip and dunk process of the daily news game, you arrive at a place photographically where you feel confident shooting just about anything. Because, at a newspaper, that’s what you do.
Bill Frakes and Laura Heald just launched an intensely personal, heartfelt project about Bill’s home state, called, simply The Nebraska Project. The directness of the title reflects the place the pictures address—the sparse, beautiful, no frills state of Nebraska.
You know Bill as a sports shooter. He has been a long time, formidable staffer and contributor to Sports Illustrated, and has authored some of its most memorable moments and coverages. He has not just the talent, but the drive and intensity to drill through the bureaucracies and red tape of events like Olympiads and Kentucky Derbies, and fight to get his cameras in the right place. He works connections, angles, and the behind the scenes wheels and deals as well as he works his cameras.
(Lots of folks might think that you show up at these places wearing a shiny SI badge and you are ushered to a prime seat in a great position and people are ferrying you lattes in between the making of great picture after great picture. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before you even get the cameras out of the bag, you have to do a ton of work. Scouting, negotiating, relationship building, bartering, barking, clamping, wiring, testing and re-testing, all takes place in exhaustive fashion. And then, even after all that, you just never know when a ref or a TV network cameraman will block your angle.)
So what’s he doing shooting landscapes—beautifully? Wait a minute, this isn’t track and field, fella.
No, it isn’t. But what Bill has done has photographed from the heart, and relied on all that experience, much of it gained back in his newspaper days at the Miami Herald, when he and his mates won a Pulitzer for covering the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. The crunching grind of newspapering hones skills that stay with you your whole career, whether you are shooting a hundred meter dash, or a vibrant country sky. You know how to tell a story, no matter the subject matter.
Bill and Laura have told a wonderful story here, albeit one off their usual assignment path. After working in 135 countries and all fifty states, Bill went back home with his cameras, and took us all along (check out some of the coverage here).