© Tim Hussin
Starting Over - Hold Onto Your Family - Russ Brown looks out the window of his new bedroom with his mom, Susan Brown, at his new apartment six days after the fire. "Life is so unpredictable," he said. "Who knows what's going to happen. So hold onto your family."
Please read Tim Hussin's biography, read parts A and B of this interview and see the images on his Web site.
What trends do you see happening with peers at other universities?
The year of not finding a job. (laughs)Is there a push toward Renaissance Journalism?
I think the evolution of multimedia. I have a good number of friends at OU and Western that I've met along the way. It seems like they're really pushing multimedia in their curriculum. We are too, but I think we're a little behind, which is one of the things I've tried to help with while I've been back at school.
Universally, the main change in the curricula of photo schools is multimedia. OU and Western use to - may still have - film classes. I'm not sure if they got rid of those. I think they're weeding them out or making them electives. They're not mandatory anymore.
(Darkroom classes) are being replaced more with learning video, multimedia, editing audio.
Yea, that's another thing. All these things are part of that - learning one more thing. Learning video is part of that.What do you wish you had learned in college?
I think that's what made me competitive as well. You're getting all these people graduating photo schools that cannot only shoot photos, they can shoot video and audio, and some of them can maybe write well.
Yea, I think the push is having us do more things at the same time, which is good to know, but at the same time I think there's the danger of spreading us thin. Taking away something from each of it.
If you have to shoot video and photos in the same amount of time, that normally someone would just shoot photos, you're going to miss certain things with each media.
So, I think there's a balance that you must find. Maybe it's just a matter of allowing more time to shoot video or take audio. Otherwise, people are just going to put up mediocre multimedia pieces online.
I think people can tell when something is not good journalism. Even if they don't know all the technical words - or whatever words we use to describe it - they'll click on whatever else they've got on their computer screen.
I think the push is into making us into Renaissance peoples.
Here, design is not mandatory. We have classes here. My degree will be in journalism. I have to take a capstone course, which is a course - for example in photo - it'd be the last course you take, which is Advanced Photo 2, which is a photo story class.
Along the way, you can take design. You can take HTML or Flash, which you're encouraged to do. It's a matter of if you have time for that or not.
In my courses, I've taken HTML. I've taken design. I've taken reporting. A little bit of everything, but the crux of it has been photo.
If you have - like me for example - I'm doing photo, and that's what I want to do. A lot of teachers are very open to me adapting projects. For example, adapting a Web page to be geared toward photography. Layout's geared toward photography. It's a pretty good program in that respect.
I wish I had learned multimedia - video, editing with Final Cut. I wish I had learned multimedia, but at the same time I wish I had learned the bare-bones basics that you could get at schools like Western or OU. That'd be great if I had a film class.Do you think it's important to freelance while you're in college?
I feel like they have a lot of classes that really push you like you have to go to an event and just shoot one frame, and that's it.
Here, I would have liked to learn multimedia and some more basic photography. But, you've got to give something up. In this case, I would give up the darkroom classes because the combination of HTML, video, photos and audio is where this is going in some respect.
There will always be a place for photos and the printed page, but this is what's making people - students particularly - more marketable to any sort of publication or Web site.
I don't think I have very good business skills. I just started off doing this, and it was very fun, enjoyable, and I figured out I could get paid for it. At that point, your work is good, and people are willing to pay for it, but you don't really know how much it's worth. For that reason, people tend to take advantage of you.
A Business of Photojournalism class or of journalism would be invaluable to have. Yea, that would be great. Right now, I'm still trying to figure it out. People are always asking me - other people that come to forums like A Photo A Day - they're always asking, "I have this gig, what should I charge for it?"
There's all sorts of things like in terms of the rights they have and how long they can use the photos and all these little pieces of that - that I have no idea about.
I think it helps. It can't hurt obviously. Trying out all that stuff in college is important: internships and freelancing, touching on all the professional pieces.What does it take to be successful in this profession?
Hard work, passion, also it's important to have a vision that's unique from everybody else's - a vision that makes you stand out. It makes you different from everybody else.What have you discovered about the profession that you did not expect?
I see a lot of photographers that all seem to have either a style or subject matter or something that - you think of child marriage, and you think of Stephanie Sinclair. Something to make you unique is important.
I will, hopefully, figure one of these things out. I think that's one of the most important things - to have a vision and to have a subject matter or approach that is unique from other people.
There's so many good photographers coming into the field and are still going to be coming into the field that you need something to set you apart.
That it's such a tight-knit group of people. It's a pretty small community. There are lots of things like photo workshops, like Eddie Adams or seminars and list serves and blogs that bring all these people together. I didn't know it would be very helpful.During internships?
You can feel like you're not lost in a huge, huge crowd of photographers. You feel it's somewhat manageable. You can somewhat wrap your mind around it in some way. I know there are a lot of people that don't participate in that sort of thing. There's a lot of shooters abroad that I'm not even tapped into. I feel like it's a smaller community than I expected.
I always expect something new in an internship. It's been different everywhere I've gone. It's been similar, but the people have been different in different places.Is it important to be technically proficient?
I expected a lot of things. I expected it to be high-paced, but still kind of laid back at the same time. I expected the standard to be pretty high, but that has evolved as I have evolved. As I've gotten better, the standard has gotten better at the places I've interned.
My first internship was for credit here at The Gainesville Sun. I expected the standard to be high there. After I've gone through the rounds, I went to the Monroe Evening News, The Deseret Morning News and The Rocky Mountain News.
After coming back, I can look back on that and say, "Wow. This is actually manageable." Those expectations I initially had were not quite as true as I thought them to be. Now, I can go into a newsroom and have some sort of comfort and confidence that I'm able to produce good work as well.
Yea. That sort of thing stands out - especially at a newspaper. You caption and tone your photo and send it along, but there's so many tiers of people that look at it before it goes into the paper, so they're going to catch anything - any little mistake that you make. Be it in the caption or toning - if you take the blacks all the way down - they're going to notice those sorts of things.How important is competition in the industry?
Technically, yea, that's important. That's very important. They will come out in the paper the next day if you screw up. People maybe will not trust you as much or whatever the case may be.
You can't sharpen an out-of-focus photo to make it work. Having that frame the best it can be is important. You've got to have sharp photos.
It's something that, at first, you aren't quite into that, but then it's something you just expect. You expect it to be exposed right, in focus. Beyond that, once you can figure out those things, you can concentrate on vision and content and the things that are really, really important - telling the story.
It's important within the industry as far as making a name for yourself, and people seem to notice that. If you have a Pulitzer, people are going to know that. They're going to look at you a different way because of that.How's the job market look for you and your peer group in general?
But, at the same time, I don't think that needs to drive people. It does drive some people, but other people stay humble, and they keep focused on the reasons they're doing it, which - I hope - aren't totally contest-driven. It differs for everybody.
I think it's important to get you there probably, but I don't think it should consume people. I don't think it should consume the photographer to the point where they forget about why they’re doing this.
On the surface, it looks pretty bad. At the same time, I think there are a lot of options that people might not be looking at, or might not be noticed yet. Of course, we're going through a lot of change now. People are getting laid off left and right, but for people going into the market - if you want to get a newspaper job, it might be tough.Anything to add?
You're not going to get a job at The New York Times right away. I don't think that should discourage people, unless that's all you want to do.
There are a lot of other options, be it freelance work or multimedia work. It's tough for people - like myself - coming out of school. I think they should know what's happening, but they don't need to be afraid of it. I think there's a certain excitement to how things are changing. I think that there are a lot of options that are opening up that people might not recognize yet.
Multimedia is the main thing. Specifically, I don't know, it's growing a bit. A lot of people are creating these collectives. These groups of photographers that are all have a similar approach or similar message, but are all very different. I think a lot of people are banding together to deal with the issues the economy is facing. I think we will find a way out of it, or find a way to do what we want to do.
Otherwise, I guess maybe we'll look for other things. But, I don't think I want to do that right away.
It's important to keep an open mind and to push yourself, to keep at it. If I, at some point, run out of money, and I had to sell my cameras and live on the street, maybe I'd reconsider. But right now, it's not happening.
It's important to have an open mind - a malleable mind - be open to change and be open to doing something different like shooting video.
This is just a very exciting thing to be doing. It cannot only help people - teach people - but, it can also allow you to experience things that many people have never experienced, or to see things the way that other people have never seen things.
It's a way to connect to people. I think being allowed into someone's life for however long it is - for a couple of minutes or a month or a year - I think that is enough to make me keep doing it. That's something that's not easily achieved.
If I wasn't doing this, I don't know that I would be seeking out the life of other people. I'm able to use this like a medium to get me into places and experience things and - in turn - translate that into a form that other people can experience. I find it very exciting and somewhat noble, and I find it honorable to be that messenger - that person that does that.
For people who are just getting into this, for people who want to do this, I'd say to keep doing it.
Enough for now,