Well here's something amazing;
I'm a National Geographic photographer!
Now usually when you hear someone is a NatGeo photographer, you picture adventerous souls climbing mountains and such, which is generally true. But as NatGeo has branched out onto the internet, they have more room to report on more things, and to do that, they look for specialized creatives for those things. In my case, my specialty is being autistic.
Anyway, here's what happened:
August 9th, 2019, I get this email:
It’s great to e-meet you! We really enjoy your artwork across so many different mediums and are wondering if you’d be interested in participating in a project we’re working on at National Geographic.
We’re putting together a multimedia “tap story” (similar to an Instagram Story, but will live permanently on our website) that explores what independence means to people on the spectrum. It will accompany an upcoming story in the magazine about autism. We’re looking for a range of autistic artists who can express their personal experience through different mediums, including photography.
Monica pointed us to your work and we’d love to talk about the possibility of you creating a photo essay for the story. We especially liked your style of photography we saw in the Things of Interest segment of your website. I’m attaching a document here that has more information about the project and a brainstorming prompt.
Let us know if you have any questions at all. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Naturally I lose my damn mind. I got chosen for my photography! My favouritist medium! For Nat Geo! Yes they are pulling from a small pool, but the pool of people that climb Everest is also small.
Here are the facts: I was put on an assignment by National Geographic, I had parameters I had to work within, I had a deadline, and I got paid. It's legit.
And this was not easy, either. Here is the prompt, in all its super-long glory:
Prompt: What does it mean to become independent?
It seems like everyone has opinions and information about autism but you are the real expert on your own autistic life journey. What would you teach non-autistic people to help them understand what independence really means for you? The following questions may help you explore your own views on independence as you shape your artistic expression.
How do you measure your own independence? Our society teaches that earning enough to support yourself is the best measure of independence. Parents often dream of their children going off to start families of their own. Money and love are important parts of becoming independent; are they important to you, too? Or is independence something else for you?
What did it feel like to begin to gain independence? What milestones or events made you realize that you could take charge of your own life? What roadblocks have you encountered along the way and how did you get past them...or are there some barriers you’re still struggling with?
Is independence something you’ve built alone or did you have help? How much does your own independence look like the stories you hear from other people — people in books and movies or people in real life? What has your roadmap to life’s accomplishments been like and what navigation tips do you have for future autistic travelers facing their own journeys toward independence?
Got all that?
Several Skype sessions later (remember Skype?), I understood that I was somehow supposed to convey this abstract idea with four, 9:16 (skinny vertical for cell phones), abstract-style shots. Mind you, I don's shoot abstract ideas. I shoot whatever looks cool. I'm about the hunt. The surprise! The capture! I didn't really know how to do concepts, but Nat Geo! NAT GEO!
Also, shooting 9:16 is hard. I had roughly 60 days, and I had to come up with 3-5 concepts, which meant 12-20 shots. That were cool enough for Nat Geo.
Much hair was lost.
You can go here to see all the stuff, including the un-cropped versions of things:
After that, the next thing I had to do was choose four. The first three were easy, but the last one drove me crazy for weeks. I must have taken dozens of shots, with several different cameras, until I settled on a handful I liked. Then I put it to the public.
Fast forward six months later and I get a request to do a voice-over. The reasoning was that they didn't want to put captions over the shots. I reasoned that no one is going to listen to the audio, but I did it anyway. They put the captions on anyway. I guess that just how it be.
So there you have it! Sure it's a stretch, but I am, in fact, a Nat Geo photographer, and I will never let my friends forget this fact for even a second.
Cheers for reading!