Saturday, February 28, 2009

Express News Lay-offs

Mark Sobhani, photojournalist for the San Antonio-Express News

Photojournalists provide an intimate view of the unique lives and world they are surrounded by, hoping that their images instill an emotional response in viewers, a compassion for humanity or awe-inspiring recognition of witnessing history. All journalists with cameras desire that their photographs be reciprocated by the viewer and society as essential and necessary, for being the truthful eyes of the world, the watchdog providing factual and historical information. We take pictures to tell the stories of others, and by doing so, share a portion of our own experiences in life.

The San Antonio Express-News laid off 135 employees last week, seventy-five of those working journalists in the newsroom. This was a wide-spread cut, including some of my most admired photographers.

I heard about papers around the country cutting jobs, and wasn't sure if the Express-News would soon follow. I heard about the lay offs when a KSAT 12 news crew showed up at the Ranger newsroom, interviewing my co-workers about how they felt working in a "dying field." This upset me, and I, too, found myself asking why I was working tirelessly everyday, motivated by my growing yet fragile passions, to work as a professional photojournalist.

I have big dreams, dreams I have needed to think long and hard about to make them dreams, to make sure this is something I really want to do. And amidst the terrible news and the feelings I carry, like I'm up against the world who has mostly forgotten to care about newspapers, I have been forced to take my life's dreams into much greater consideration. This isn't a totally bad thing, however, as it has made me begin forming a more concrete plan of what I really want in life and what I need to do to get there.

I still want to be a photographer, preferably a photojournalist, maybe a sports shooter, but never an exclusively wedding/portrait photographer. I have passions in the medical/nutrition field, and I have gone so far as to rethinking my life's career in these terms, treating photography like a hobby. But when I think seriously about that, it doesn't feel right. I take great pride and joy in helping people, and have always felt that the best way for anyone to live is by making a positive impact on people's lives and the world around them. But I need variety and change, a way to express my creativity. I want to be able to travel and experience the world, to really experience it, like no tourist can. And I have been reassured that my images can provide a lasting impression on people's lives, in their own vision and response to the world.

I don't believe photographs in news media will ever go away, there will always be a need for news photos as visual aids to stories. It's the community's value for print media and stories that are less "big" news and more local, human issues, that has brought me back to the drawing board, to form a backup plan and decide roughly what steps I should take. I don't know what will become of the newspaper industry in ten years, and can only guess that they will further be moved online. Photographs will travel with the news, how and wherever it ends up being told.

You can read's article on the lay offs here

Courtesy of

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life on the Via Bus

Riding the Via bus is like taking a forty-five minute glance into all the unique lives in San Antonio. When I began riding the Via, I remember looking up every time at those who stepped on, almost instinctively, and unconsciously examining the people as they dropped their fare of coins into the machine. Never looking on with judgment, but rather a thoughtless reflex to satisfy my eyes' curiosity, I am given a brief view of these people and their lives, their journey intersecting with mine and humanity embracing us.

I may glance up briefly nowadays, as my eyes have become more familiar with the culturally diverse world around me. Some things haven't changed, though, as when I allow my mind to escape from whatever homework I may be laboring on and enter into the minds of my fellow travelers, to imagine how and where they have lived, and where they are going.

I can only wonder about the homeless man who has managed enough money for a ride, sleeping across three seats on his way to nowhere (sometimes they just hop on, blabbing and making a fus with their belongings to force the driver to continue on, and hopping off a few streets down without ever paying). Or the by-sexual lovers who ride at night, on my rides home from a late assignment, making out across from the old woman whose scowl only fuels their ambitions. Then there's the new families, the young husbands and wives who fight while their children scream for what always seems the longest of bus rides. The business people, the nurses in the scrubs, the lawyers in business suits, the construction workers dragging dirt from their shoes.

And there's me, carrying my skateboard, wallet, and morning smoothies as I enter on the bus, balancing the textbook my neck is hurting over, scribbling on my worksheets as the bus bounces along the streets. I love riding the Via bus for the extra time I have to do homework, especially to day-dream about the people who ride as a collective sample from the world moving on the outside. Today's ride home was a typical five o' clock rush hour on the bus, people packing in like sardines as we drudge along in traffic. I always have to stand for about thirty minutes on these rides, forcing my homework to remain in the over-sized backpack I log around, and allowing me to observe the interactions among those riding, the gossiping or sleeping or those staring off outside.

There were two lovers who got on today, clinging to each other the whole way, until they finally got off as I watched a cloud of dust blow into them (and I laughed out loud). I have always felt compelled to take pictures of these unique people on the bus, why I havn't until recently, I can only say that my eyes have widened to see them as an important aspect in my own life, as subjects whose lives of this time in San Antonio have influenced me to think about my own place in the world. Like the great photojournalist Robert Adams once said,

"At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands before our camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect--a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known."

Monique Mireles laughs with her boyfriend Luis Contreras as they ride on the Via bus together on Thursday, Feb 26.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

girl scout cookies are here!

Yes! They finally came, and we didn't get just one box...

Girl scout cookies are too good to resist, and my Mom couldn't resist buying a whole box full of almost every kind. And since I've been in the mood of preserving family tradition, a few shots of the cookies never hurts! These little beauties of sugary goodness represent just another American past-time of eating what tastes good (in moderation? probably not...) I'll just think on the brighter side and let these cookies NOT represent the new American tradition of diabetes.