Airplanes, memories and doin’ the Gillette-thing

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I’ll be back in Seattle by the time this is posted, but right now I’m flying directly over the little town where all this began. Gillette, Wyoming is where I worked my first full-time newspaper photography job. I’d had several internships before The News-Record, but Gillette is where I stepped away from the people and places I knew as a child. As Stephen King says, it’s where I made my stand (at least my first one).

I worked harder in Gillette than I thought was possible. I believe that’s the truth for anyone working at a small daily, community newspaper. You just go and go and go. It never stops, and neither do you. I photographed several assignments almost every day in Gillette. It was a do or die situation that forced me to produce at a publishable level even when I felt too tired and creatively worn out to do it.

I drew on my Gillette News-Record experiences while I was in South Africa last week. I had to because Deborah Bach and I had a hellacious workload each day. We were either traveling, interviewing, touring facilities, making stills and/or gathering video all day. Then we had to attend and cover evening events. At the end of all that we then had to write, edit, consult with our Seattle editors, rewrite, re-edit and finally deliver our material. A couple days we worked damn near 20 hours by the time all the social network publishing was done. During the most difficult moments I told myself to double-down and do the Gillette-thing. That’s what got me through.

As I sit in this plane that’s passing directly over Gillette, I remember standing in a stadium 24 years ago while making pictures at the Gillette Camels high school football game. It was starting to get dark when I looked up at the shimmering contrail of a west-bound passenger jet. I wondered about the people in that plane. Where were they going? Where had they come from? I also wondered if I’d ever be on one of those jets that flew so high over Gillette back then. It seemed like an impossible dream. The memory of looking up at that jet all those years ago makes me wonder if anyone in Gillette is looking up right now and wondering.

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