The Mentoring Life

By Martin Smith-Rodden, Ball State University

AUGUSTA, GA (April 29, 2016) - So – who was it for you?

I can think of few professions that are as mentor-influenced as photojournalism. While my own early academic experience was full of fits and starts (no, we shall not speak of those University of Maryland transcripts!), I benefited from two mentoring relationships that were critical to my development as a young photographer. Bill Smith from the Associated Press and Richard Darcey from the Washington Post were among the first to take an interest in me as a hapless undergrad, a novice photojournalist and as a person. “Smitty” and Dick were experienced, elder professionals who were motivated by the desire to connect, to coach and to cultivate emerging young photographers. Perhaps they saw this relationship as a professional responsibility. I now see it as an honor to have been touched by their wisdom and guidance. This was my introduction to the joy and duty that is the mentoring life.

I’ve had so many mentors in the decades since[1] – all of whom have refined me as a professional and informed my sense of mission and vocation. In recent years I’ve worked to pay it forward, and have adopted my own mentoring life as a personal value – as something so deeply held and that, in part, makes me who I am.

Who was it for you?

As you may have seen in NPPA President Melissa Lyttle’s announcement last week, our association is renewing its effort to facilitate mentoring relationships within the organization. Melissa correctly recognizes our core strength being our collective experience and knowledge, and the NPPA Mentorship Program will leverage this in a way to have lasting effects in shaping our profession.

So many of us have benefited from the guidance of mentors. Please consider this initiative as an invitation to pay it forward and take your place in the cycle of the mentoring life. By all means go to the following link, and volunteer for the NPPA Mentorship Program.

[1] Randall Roberts, Bob Lynn, Alex Burrows, Randy Greenwell, Ivan Ash, Bryan Porter come to mind.