Everybody plays the fool
Written by Shawn Sienkiewicz
About 100 years ago, I was a college student, and one of my professors told us a story. He said it was graduation day, and a young man in a cap and gown, waiting to march onto the quad, remarked, “Phew! Four years, and it didn’t faze me a bit.” Troubled, my professor turned to him and said, “If it didn’t faze you a bit, you just wasted four years.”
In June 2016, I attended the Southeast Storytelling Workshop, in Atlanta, Georgia. As we were breaking off into our critique groups, I overheard some young photojournalists trying to decide what to have critiqued. They were huddled around a laptop, clicking on files, when one of them spoke up. “I don’t want to show that, they’ll think I suck!” It’s not a direct correlation, however, I can’t help but wonder what my old professor would think.
When we ask professional colleagues to watch our work, and give us their thoughts, it is important to ask ourselves why we are doing so. If the answer is – to impress the hell out of everyone – we are in the wrong place. This is what job interviews are for. The answer should be – to learn, grow, and get better at our craft. This way, when we do go to a job interview, we will impress the hell out of everyone.
A couple of years ago, I went to a critique session where we were told to bring two stories. Bring a story you are happy with, but also bring a story in which things didn’t go quite so well. Sure, it’s fun to watch good stories, and be proud of our work. But, I learned more from the mistakes pointed out to me in the ‘not quite so well’ story. And I still practice the lessons learned every day.
Being on the hotseat is stressful enough. Get rid of some of the pressure by remembering you are there to learn, not to impress.
As a photojournalist for over 20 years, Shawn Sienkiewicz has covered all the usual suspects – crime, government, sports, features, and tragedies. He has won several regional Emmy awards, and a regional Murrow. Since 2010, he has worked at WTIC, Fox 61, in Hartford, CT. Prior to that, Shawn worked for News12 CT, in Norwalk, CT, WTNH in New Haven, CT, WTEN in Albany, NY, and WGGB in Springfield, MA. Before picking up a camera, he was an infantryman in the U.S. Army. Shawn finished college on the ten year plan, finally graduating from Westfield State College, in his native city, Westfield, MA.