John Harrington Alternate Bio

Cool.

You’ve found a page in the site that’s hidden. It’s like one of those “Easter Eggs” given to reward adventurous gamers in video games.

For me, it’s a different bio that’s less “polished” and more from the heart.

A (bit more) About Myself…

I totally love photography. I can’t believe my good fortune that I get paid to do it. It’s not a job-but there is work involved. I often get asked what I do, and my stock response is “except for people without clothes, just about anything…’ and that’s true, and it’s what makes photography so much fun for me. Every day is different. Sure, the White House some days, a Hollywood-type the next, but if I had do either of them all the time, it’d fry me. Sure, I even do an occasional wedding, but because it’s not that often, it’s another really great assignment for me. The proverbial “variety is the spice of live” rings so true.

My “schooling” is in politics, with a minor in Economics. But don’t let that fool you. My degree was supposed to be Business, but I just couldn’t get past statistics, so with the remaining already earned credits in the business department, I switched to Politics and had enough left over for a minor… oh yeah, from The Catholic University of America. 5 year plan…graduated in 1990.

I found my way to photography because my dad gave me an interest in photography, probably more because he did it than anything else. I ended up on the school yearbook staffs for junior high and high school, and landed luckily as the school newspaper photographer in college, then on to the school yearbook the next year.

During college, one of my professors was an editor for The World & I magazine, so I showed them my portfolio. They must have seen something, because they said they’d consider work I might offer. Buoyed by that, I pitched five stories I’d shoot during summer break between Junior and Senior year. I shot them while back home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and lucky me, they published one. I couldn’t believe it. Then, I proposed to shoot the Bush-Gorbachev Summit at the end of my Senior Year, and they agreed, but would pay only if I got pictures published. Sure enough, 18 pool passes I finagled my way into and access to the Oval Office, Russian Embassy, and a trip to Camp David, they published a two-page spread of my photos in their August issue. Come September, I was told that the magazine’s photographer was leaving, and he said if I wanted the staff job it was mine. That same week, a limousine company (did I mention I used to be a tour guide/chauffeur and a DJ in Georgetown as well?) offered me a job managing the company.

I called my mom, as any newly graduated son should do, for advice. My dilemma? The magazine paid $15k, the limo company $40k. my mom gave me the best advice€she said “I’m sorry, I can’t help you on this one, you’re going to have to figure this one out on your own€”

So I did. She did that because all my life I had chosen the path of economic wealth…I always used to say to people who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, that I didn’t care, as long as I made lots of money. How naïve. I had two paper routes, worked long hours at pizza restaurants, and even spent time as a Chef. Now, I chose the path of least economic wealth and most happiness…photography.

Yea.

Then after a few years teaching myself lighting and medium format cameras on staff at the magazine, I thought I’d like to get an agent to represent my stock. I asked around, and everyone said “...anywhere but Black Star…you’ll never get in…”. They were unquestionably the top agency in the world, and they had a great photographer already in Washington. So, I tried. The considered me, and a year later, they didn’t call to say they’d take my stock, they called to offer me an exclusive contract. Ahh…the naysayers proven wrong again.

Then, after 5 years at the magazine, I went out on my own, and hoped the phone would ring. It did, and (thank God) still does. I’m busier than I ever thought I’d be.

Three or so years later, I get this funny call. It’s from a woman at the National Museum of the American Indian. After the initial pleasantries, she asks “...are you Native American?” I respond that I am, and she further asks if I’m a full time photographer? “Yes” I respond, and she then says she’s in the book division of the NMAI and why hadn’t I called the museum to work for them? I said I’d figured I’d stop in once the museum opened, and see what was going on. She asked me to come in, so I did. Again, I get there, and she and her boss, the head of the book division, seemed perplexed that I’d never come to them, and they said they thought they knew every Native photographer. At this point, I sensed that I wanted to put this to rest, so I pulled out my tribal card, talked about going to pow wows, and said that I’d love to work for the NMAI, but I didn’t feel I should come and sell myself as a Native photographer and expect something, but rather, somehow, I’d see if my skills could just help me find my way there. My grandmother, as I recounted this story to her, smiles and says that’s just how the Great Spirit works, and how I came to be working with the museum is fitting as it is the Indian way. Three books later, being one of the official photographers for the Museum’s opening, and shooting the portrait of outgoing Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell for the magazine’s cover, I’m excited about giving back to my culture.

John Harrington Photography, Bio Photo with daughter

 

Oh.  Did I say photography is so much fun and I can’t believe I am making a living doing it? So far, it’s been about 15 years. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The idea that I would get sent on assignment to Cuba, or Prague, trekking for three weeks throughout Mexico, somehow boggles me. But it keeps happening.

I often feel like I have not one, but two guardian angels looking out for me, and that I lead a serindipitous life. I really believe that. Sure, I’ve had my share of “trials and tribulations” but overall, I am a pretty lucky guy, and hope that as my young children grow older, I will get to share with them the excitement of the world.

That’s my goal. Family first. Always. I have the flexibility of a career that lets me take time off to go to my daughter’s school from time to time. To take time to help friends with things during the day.

I read a book some time ago, by Nelson DeMille, and one of the things that stuck me was something he had written. “The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you’re finished.” So, I am always trying to do something.

Also, another author, David Morrell, wrote in one of his books which has a fictional character that’s a photographer - “The day you’re satisfied with your work is the day you’ll stop being an excellent photographer.” I think there’s some truth to that statement. I’ll keep on trying.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to drop me a line, please do.

Washington DC photographer: Portrait and Editorial Photography in Washington DC

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