C.S. Muncy is a New York City-based freelance photojournalist with a client list that includes The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, The New York Daily News and The Village Voice. We wanted him to be one of the first photographers on try the new Petzval lens.
Over the past several years, he’s covered such subjects as Hurricane Sandy, the BP Oil Spill, the final flights of the U.S. space shuttle program, the fight for same-sex civil rights, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center and Occupy Wall Street. A graduate of the Defense Information School, he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2002 and is currently a photographer with the 106th Rescue Wing.
Name: CS Muncy
Country: United States
Camera: Nikon F5
How did you become a professional photographer? Is it a dream job?
I’ll admit that I originally started taking photos back in high school (and later in college) to meet girls. And that sort of worked, but as I shot more and more I really became addicted to it. I spent all my time looking at photo magazines or trying to learn about new gear and techniques. Eventually I started working for the school paper, and then with local papers…from there it just snowballed. My junior year I left school and joined the Air Force where I eventually became a photographer. Between then and now I’ve worked for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News, Newsday and the Village Voice. It’s a tough business, and can sometimes be extremely difficult, but I love it. It’s absolutely a dream job.
What’s the most challenging part of working as a photographer for a living?
It’s a hustle. Unless you’re a rock star, editors aren’t always going to be beating down the doors offering you gigs; you really have to bring the stories to them. I’ve gone through dry periods where I’ve had to sell gear just to make rent, and I’ve had great seasons where I’m making a comfortable living. You just have to keep your ear to the ground and try to find the good stories before anyone else.
What is it about analogue photography which especially appeals to you?
It really demands a lot out of photographers. You have to understand not just your camera, but what kind of film you’re using, how it’s going to be developed, how the light is hitting your subject and so on. You have to look at every detail in your frame, and know that you’ve got a limited number of shots in order to make it happen. It’s more intimate. Film has depth and grain and can be sometimes imprecise, but I like to think that film has soul.
We see you work a lot with the Air Force. How does the process of shooting them differ from shooting a regular photo?
In addition to my news work, I’m a photographer with the 106th Rescue Wing. It’s a great gig; where else do you get to take photos hanging out the open cargo door of an aircraft thousands of feet above the ground? Compared to shooting the news, it’s a lot more high impact.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel around the nation taking photos – have you got any advice for photographers looking to be a photo journalist?
Know exactly what kind of a photographer you want to be – then go out and be it. In my experience, editors respond to photographers that have drive and direction. Know that you have to go get the stories, and that the great ones aren’t going to drop in your lap. Have a solid portfolio and be willing to take constructive criticism.
How was your experience shooting with the Petzval Lens? What advice have you got for people shooting with it for the first time?
I loved it. It’s built like a tank and the produces a unique image. I’d tell first-time shooters to be patient with it; the depth of field is razor thin and it takes a few shots to get the right feel for it. Also, be very careful with the aperture inserts; they don’t always seat firmly in the lens and can fall out if you’re not paying attention. (The aperture inserts have been improved. C.S. Muncy was sent a prototype of the lens.- Editor)
What is your favorite shot with the lens so far? Why?
I went out with one of the base’s SERE specialists and took a portrait in the tall grass. SERE specialists train (and train others) in survival, escape and evasion in difficult environments. I thought that the tall grass combined with the way the lens forces your attention onto the subject, made for a great image.
And lastly, What’s the strangest, funniest, hands-down greatest, or most “unusual” photographic encounter that you have ever had?
I can give you one of my favorite memories, I suppose. In 2011 the New York senate was debating whether or not the state would begin recognizing same-sex marriage. There had been several rallies throughout the week both in Albany and in NYC for and against it, but nobody knew when a decision was going to be made. In the early evening a buddy called and told me that a decision might be coming down, so I headed down to the Stonewall Inn. Nobody put me on assignment, but I knew that if something happened I’d probably be able to get some usable images. Later in the evening word started to spread that a decision could come at any moment. One woman was listening to her phone, and this look came over her face- I grabbed my camera and brought it up just in time to see her shout out and throw out her arms. Marriage equality had just become legal in New York state. I spent the rest of the night shooting (at one point I climbed onto the roof of the Inn and got some great shots of the crowd below) before submitting my shots to the papers. At that point, I was exhausted and laid down to go to sleep when one of the editors from the Times called to let me know they were going to use it for the next day’s cover. “You’re ****ing kidding me,” I think I responded. If I wasn’t so tired, I probably wouldn’t have been so profane…but it was my first cover for them, and it was for a story I cared rather deeply about. That’s probably my favorite story.
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The Lomography x Zenit Petzval Lens is now available for pre-order in the Lomography Online Shop! They will be delivered on a first come, first served basis; so don’t miss out on securing your piece of photographic history and your place in the pre-order queue!