Photographer’s Q&A – Peter Jones
Peter Jones started freelancing with Reuters in 1986 and was hired on staff in 1991. He is currently the Editor-in-Charge, Canada Photos and North American Sports Pictures Editor for Thomson Reuters.
Alexander Wurz of Austria crashes in his Benetton team car on the first lap of the Canadian Grand Prix at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal, Canada, June 7, 1998. Wurz used his spare car and finished in fourth place. (REUTERS/Peter Jones)
(Editor’s note: How easy was it to shoot this? Watch here and decide.)
What were your first steps in the photo industry?
I started my career in the hotbed of photojournalism that is Moncton, New Brunswick, at the Times-Transcript. Soon after I got my driver’s license, I began covering what were arguably some of the worst assignments in the history of the world.
What events led you to where you are now?
Canadian Press staff photographer Jan Van Horne was based in Halifax and we met when she travelled to New Brunswick for assignments. From there, my high school buddy [now Globe and Mail photographer] Moe Doiron and I met photographers Doug Ball and Bill Grimshaw at CP in Montreal and I started travelling there to shoot Grand Prix races and tennis tournaments. To gain experience … for free. I consider this part of my career critical and worth every dime I didn’t make.
In September of 1984, I decided to make the move to Ottawa and packed everything into my 1977 monkey-shit brown Chevy Nova to make the trek.
Federal Liberal Leader Jean Chretien (R) runs through a forest with aides and media in pursuit during the Canadian election campaign October 25, 1993. (REUTERS/Peter Jones)
What are the best and worst things about being a wire service photographer?
For the most part, being a wire service photographer is about events. The best thing about events, be they sports or news, is that they generally start on time as it’s hard to make our TV friends wait. The worst thing is that you often have no time to do more than a cursory look at a story.
What is your most memorable assignment and why?
That’s a hard one. My job with Reuters has taken me all over the world and continues to do so. But a few of the highlights have been the big assignments that bring a lot of us to one spot, usually the Olympics.
Some of the others have been the Grey Cups across Canada with the members of my talented troupe. The Grey Cup is always a big deal in Canada as it’s the one big event a year that is uniquely Canadian and a true head-to-head contest with our friends at CP.
Belarus paddlers celebrate after their gold medal performance in the men’s C-4 200 metre event at the world canoe championships in Dartmouth, N.S. August 24, 1997. (REUTERS/Peter Jones)
What advice do you have for photographers who might want to work for a wire service? What skills does a wire photographer need that a daily newspaper shooter doesn’t?
In the past, I would have said that technical skills would have set us apart, and by technical, I mean computer/networking skills. That is changing, or has changed in the past few years, as newspaper photographers have been forced to send in their images from the field for their paper’s web site.
That said, there is an art to setting up an event like the Super Bowl, Grey Cup, Stanley Cup, World Series, etc. It’s definitely a learned skill and some people can’t get their heads around it. For the most part, I think wire photographers work with less of a support group behind them on a day-to-day basis and then with more of a support group (editors, technicians) on a big event.
To succeed as a wire photographer, you should be well-rounded, able to shoot kings, queens, heads of state, sports, features, entertainment and conflict. Work on these things, saving conflict for the end, after collecting some life experience.
Sacha Trudeau (L) and Justin Trudeau watch the casket of their father Pierre Trudeau being carried off Parliament Hill in Ottawa, October 2, 2000. Former Prime Minister Trudeau died at age 80 on September 28 and will have a state funeral in Montreal October 3. (REUTERS/Peter Jones)
How did you get the nickname “Spud”?
Fred Chartrand [then Canadian Press photographer in Ottawa], one of my mentors and oldest friends, gave me the nickname Spud. He was racking his brain to come up with a suitable nickname and came up with Spud or Sprout.
Spud because I was from the east coast and Sprout because I was jokingly now in the land of the “giants” in Ottawa.
He decided on Spud and it has stuck for almost 30 years.
Andy Roddick of the United States celebrates his win over Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, in the men’s final at the 2003 U.S. Open in Flushing, New York, on September 7, 2003. (REUTERS/Peter Jones)
What was your biggest photo mistake?
Ohhhhh there are too many to mention.
Covering the Stanley Cup in Detroit one year, I ran out to shoot the end of the deciding game. I found a spot overhead at the end of the rink and got set up. I couldn’t see the scoreboard but knew the end of the game was close.
I was looking at Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek and suddenly the crowd roared and he started jumping and skating to center ice. I shot this and kept shooting until there was a big pile of players then grabbed my stuff and ran to the transmit room.
As I sat down to ingest, I glanced at the TV and saw the REAL end of the game occur with confetti falling from the ceiling. What I had shot was an empty net goal by the Red Wings with a minute left. Ooops.
What was the silliest photo gadget you ever bought?
The silliest thing I ever bought was a blow-up flash diffuser while I was in Ottawa:
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
Walk softly and carry a big lens.
Be humble and if it’s not really your nature to be humble, learn to fake it.
The advice I would give personally would also include: there is no need to post every web clip or tear sheet on Facebook. There is no need to post YYZ-LGA-MIA as your status and there is definitely no need to post “The View From My Office”.
If the person that pays you is happy with your work then you’re all set.
Nancy Reagan touches the casket of her husband, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, as it lies in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, June 9, 2004. The former president’s body will lie in state for two days in the Capitol before his formal state funeral on June 11. (REUTERS/Peter Jones)