Recently Joel Brinkley and I got together to discuss some details of our return to Cambodia next week. Although we hadn't seen each other in nearly 25 years we have been communicating through e-mails and telephone and it seemed easy to pick up where we left off so long ago. There will be a lot of time to talk about our lives in the next few weeks and how two young upstart journalists in 1979 got the biggest story of their careers.
This documentary project nearly died an early death for lack of funding. I wrote a grant proposal to the Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting asking for expenses but was denied. However, a local foundation here in Sisters, Oregon, the Roundhouse Foundation, agreed to fund my transportation costs. Hopefully I'll find an outlet for the photographs after my return but with most publications having little or no freelance budget and online outlets paying minimal usage fees I'm not expecting instant wealth.
Still, the opportunity to return to see how the Cambodian people live now after the Khmer Rouge, is incredible. I believe this will complete a journey within my professional life and it also may open up new possibilities as well.
Joel, a visiting Journalism professor at Stanford University, made an observation about the span of time we had working for daily newspapers. Basically, newspapers were not the crusading, risk-taking, and aggressive publications they became after the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Those two events drew idealistic, adventurous, talented and healthy skeptics into journalism. The best years of daily journalism for newspapers also encompassed entire careers for people like Joel, me and thousands of others.
The dying newspaper industry finds many publications are cutting staffs, reducing news coverage, and publishing what people "want" instead of "need" or ceasing publication altogether. We feel very lucky to have moved on to the new phases of our lives.
One small thing bothers both of us: a lack of photos of us out in the field being journalists. While we were actually working the protocol never included stopping for a moment to make some pictures at whatever situation we were in. It seemed like grandstanding. Now we would like to have a few pictures of those times. Joel shot a few of me in Cambodia and I shot a few of him. The only roll of film that was ruined in processing had his pictures on it. I'm still irritated about that.
Joel's wife, Sabra, shot this photo of us. In the coming weeks I will be concentrating on documenting the rural Cambodian citizens. Making the photographs for Joel's book is the top priority but I won't forget this time to stop occasionally and make a few for the memory book.