Learning to see

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    Developing a visual style —
    ©Scott Sines — Sometime around 1980 legendary South Texas photographer Johnny Tarsikes hired me to be a photographer for the San Antonio Express-News. He was probably best known for his homing pigeons. He’d travel from San Antonio to Austin to shoot University of Texas football. At halftime he’d take his pigeons out onto the field attach the film to the bird’s feet and off they flew. They flew about 80 miles back to the newspaper office and made deadline. It was a big halftime deal.

    Robert Rodriguez waits for a bus on West Houston St. He took the bus into town to do his grocery shopping.

    Robert Rodriguez waits for a bus on West Houston St. He took the bus into town to do his grocery shopping.

    He was a gifted photographer and he took an interest in me. I started as a part-time lab tech and part-time shooter. When things were slow in the lab he sent me out to walk around and find a picture, but that freedom came with conditions. At first it was no motor drive just single shooting, then it was only two rolls of film, then it was just one lens, the one of my choosing. He just kept taking away all of the distractions that might lead me to mindlessly recording things and forced me to at least try to see.

    Working to make interesting pictures with limited resources forces you to look for interesting compositions and characters. Do it long enough and it becomes automatic, a style and a safety net. When in you’re in breaking news situations or shooting stories, that visual style comes in handy.