Aug. 23, 2022
“You will never make it in the newspaper business,” a professor told me back in college. As she saw it, my native Spanish speaker’s English would not improve fast enough to earn a spot on a daily.
“I was surprised you were included in this year’s workshop,” an Eddie Adams Workshop faculty member told me. Ouch.
Add to these experiences the numerous rejection letters I’ve received for newspaper or news wire organizations' staff positions.
It hurts. Trust me, I know.
Each time my confidence eroded, I would have to rebuild it and the other skills we must acquire to make it in this profession.
However, my most valuable lesson is that a photography career is a long game. You must stay as focused as possible, continue learning and be insistent on your goals. Every challenge will prepare you for the next challenge.
In other words, don’t give up. Don’t take yourself away from the journey because of a couple of closed doors along the way. Sometimes they’re simply closed, but not locked. Other times, they’re locked and deserve to be kicked in. And at some point, maybe you’ll get to hold that door open for the next photographer.
I would not be president of NPPA today if I did not pull myself back together more than once. I would not be serving the Houston community today with supportive colleagues if I didn’t continue trying. I have reinvented myself several times, listened to advice, and re-photographed events more than once. I observed other professionals, asked tough questions and took criticism like a champ.
I have learned to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve learned to celebrate my victories and keep it humble.
To those who have been accepted into any workshop: Have a blast, embrace this moment and focus on using the experience to work on skills you know need improvement. Before arriving at the workshop, make an honest list of what skills need attention, and seek advice on those specific things. Be strategic to improve yourself as a photojournalist.
If you got a rejection, apply again, as I have done to many workshops — again and again, if necessary. Your persistence shows character. Ask for feedback on how your application could improve. Try again.
Looking back, I wasn’t ready for the EAW 2011 class. I was not yet equipped to be able to perform my best and leave the best impression. I tried, but I was not yet there.
So here is my unsolicited advice: If you didn’t get into a workshop this year or next year, please look at this closed door as an extra year to work on your craft. Look elsewhere. Seek scholarships, and reach out to faculty from the workshops to introduce yourself.
If a community is what you seek, consider volunteering opportunities, give back and serve others. You might position yourself at the table where constructive discussions occur, and interesting initiatives are launched. It’s a great chance to build your own house or have a seat at the table.
Marie D. De Jesús is president of the NPPA. She can be reached at [email protected]. She is a photojournalist at the Houston Chronicle.