Here we meet C.S. Muncy, a photojournalist with many years of experience shooting protests,the political stage, and more for publications such as the New York Times and The Village Voice. He was kind enough to share these dramatic panoramas shot at the American Inauguration and the protests that followed with Lomography NYC, providing us a personal account into a historic event which has become notable for the inaccuracy in reporting about it after the fact. These photographs do show chaos, but also tell a clear story of strength and resistance, proving that the true fabric of the American people is one of love and inclusion.
How long have you been a photographer? How did you originally get into photography?
I've been shooting more or less continuously since my freshman year of college. And honestly (and perhaps a little shamefully) I got into it to meet girls. I started off with my mom's old Minolta X-700, and I discovered that being a photographer made it easier to meet new and interesting people. I was a terrible shooter in the beginning, but it did help me meet people. Anyways, one day a friend asked if I wanted to come photograph a protest - it was Valentine's Day, and a couple we knew were going to try to get married at the Marriage Bureau in Las Vegas. This must have been 1999 or 2000, before marriage equality was a thing. They were ignored for a while, then had a door slammed in their faces before being escorted out of the building. I picked up a shot of the door being slammed in one of their faces, and a newspaper asked to buy it. From there it all kind of snowballed. I started freelancing more and more, and eventually I reached a point where I was shooting full time.
What drew you to photojournalism? Were you always compelled to shoot protests/ such intense events and atmospheres?
I was never that interested in commercial photography. I've done a fair amount of portrait work, but I always wanted to be the guy telling the interesting stories. The protest stuff just kind of happened, I never really pursued it as much as you might think. After shooting a few, I started getting a reputation as a "protest guy."
How has being a journalist influenced your photographic interests and style over the years? Especially the work that isn't necessarily of these types of scenes and situations, how is this affected?
It sounds super cliched, but I really try for the "fly on the wall" shots. If I can help it, I don't want the viewer to think of me at all; I want them to concentrate on the subject of the photos.
What is the message you're trying to portray in your photos? Is there one?
When it comes to news work, I'm pretty "message free." Like I said, I don't want the viewer to think of me or my work at all, I want their attention solely on what's happening in the frame.
Do you have a preference to shoot film over digital? How do you find the two different mediums influence your work?
I love working with film, and do so whenever possible, but for day to day work I have to carry my digital bodies. Unless I'm on a long term assignment, I need to be able to file my shots almost immediately. For that the D750's built-in WiFi is great, but I have a number of devices that allow me to transmit from the field.
If it was possible, I'd work a lot more in film though. There's something so satisfying about working with analog gear that digital doesn't quite match.
What is your go-to camera?
I have a number of cameras I've used over the years. My normal, every day kit consists of either my Nikon D800 or D750. For heavier work, or work in high-impact environments I shoot on a D4. I always try to carry at least one film camera for my own personal work. Generally speaking it's my Hasselblad XPan. I love being able to tell a wider story with the panoramic format. As soon as I can afford it, I plan on investing in a second body so I can shoot seamlessly without having to worry about changing lenses.
For quieter moments, or times when I want to shoot portraits, I'll sometimes carry medium format cameras. I've got a Mamiya 645 Pro that I love, but I'm a sucker for the square format of my Rolleiflex or Hasselblad 500C.
Do you have any advice for photographers looking to work in photo-journalism or make documentary work in general?
It's a hustle. You have to work every day. You have to prove yourself with every job. It's exhausting and dangerous and the paycheck barely deserves the name. If you mess up, you'll rarely get a second chance. And, particularly in the beginning, nobody's just going to give you work; you have to go out and get the shot yourself. But that said, it can be some of the most rewarding work you'll ever do.
What role does photography play in your opinion in the way events are remembered and reported? When looking specifically at these pictures, what significance is there that these moments have been preserved and could also be shared around the world?
I'd like to think that when people look at images like this, they realize that Americans are not homogeneous in their points of view. The protests, the opposing views, the police response - it's all a macro view of a much larger debate going on in the U.S.
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. His work has also appeared in Time Magazine, The Smithsonian Magazine and Wired Japan. In 2012, he was selected for the 25th Eddie Adams Workshop, received the NPPA Short Course Travel Grant and won first prize in the National Geographic/Nikon “Full Story” photo contest. A graduate of the Defense Information School, he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2002 and is currently a combat correspondent with the 106th Rescue Wing.
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