Real Life Tips for Breaking into Photojournalism Part 1

You never know when you’re going to meet someone awesome. Back in March, we received a support question from a photographer named Patrick Hamilton. Patrick had a few questions about JPEGmini so we hopped on a Skype call with him. Not only were we able to help Patrick out, we got a chance to talk to an accomplished photographer.

Patrick is an award winning photojournalist whose career spans over 30 years. Patrick has received 14 international and national photographic awards including the coveted Walkley Award and the worldwide publishing project Moments of Intimacy Laughter & Kinship (MILK). So what does it take to get to this level? We decided to ask Patrick some questions so we can all learn from him.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in 1968 in Brisbane Queensland. My father Kev, was a Queensland Police officer and a very good self taught photographer. He was injured in the course of his duties following a brawl at a Rugby League match in the North Queensland center of Townsville, after being struck on the head with a beer bottle by a 16 year old aboriginal youth. Subsequent to this incident, he suffered two hemorrhagic strokes, which put an end to his policing career.

Because of this my father Kev, mother Clare, sister Margret and myself moved to the inland city of Toowoomba. My father started a junior rugby league competition, touring 10 & 11 year old teams to New Zealand. It was during one of these tours that I ruptured the left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), requiring a knee reconstruction. So during my recovery, I started photographing from the sidelines and learning how to develop my pictures in a temporary darkroom in our laundry.

What was your first camera?

My first camera was a Canon Canonet 28 rangefinder with a 40 mm lens. What a sweet camera that was …… I got that as a present before a holiday to Canada and North America in 1979. I was 11 at the time. I can remember leaving it on a chairlift in the Canadian resort town of Banff ….. Kev was not happy! Following this, I then got a replacement Pentax Spotmatic, it was with this that I started shooting Rugby League and then Rugby Union at my school Downlands College.

Is this when you got your start?

It was during this same period of time, a neighbor on our street, who was a part time journalist writing a weekly column from the Queensland Sunday Mail, needed photograph’s to go with his weekly sports feature articles. This was in my last year of high school and I knew photojournalism was where I wanted to go. It was over the school holidays in 1985, after applying and being accepted to study Applied Photography at the Queensland College of Art, that I was offered a part time job at The Toowoomba Chronicle, printing photo sales and real estate pictures.

It was here after a couple of weeks that there was a suburban house fire. I was the only person in the office, and with only a learner’s driving license, the paper’s picture editor told me  to go and cover the fire. The next day’s paper was full of these excellent pictures, and from then on, I was shooting regular assignments. I deferred my studies for one year – this was the best year’s education I ever had. Working for one of Australia’s best regional newspapers, making it all up as I went along.

Photo Credit: Patrick Hamilton; Photo Optimized by JPEGmini Pro

Where did you go to University?

In 1986 I started my studies at the Queensland College of Art, drinking lots of beer, chasing girls, dressing in bad 80’s clothes with even worst 80’s hair. Forming great friendships with my follow aspiring photographer’s, many who went on to have very successful careers and to whom I am still firm friends with. In this first year of study, I worked for a suburban newspaper on the weekends in Brisbane.

During these weekend shifts, I got to know the Chief photographer/Picture Editor of Brisbane’s afternoon newspaper, The Brisbane Telegraph. He was a Rugby League photographer, and because I was shooting from the sidelines at such a young age, he must have thought I had a little bit of talent… luckily I did!

He let me know a cadet position was coming up. I applied and got the cadetship. So for three months I worked doing police rounds on the midnight to dawn shift …. great theatre, photographing the underbelly of Brisbane’s life…… that was until Rupert Murdoch decided that afternoon newspapers were no longer making enough money – The Brisbane Telegraph closed on 5 February, 1988. Because I was a cadet, I was then transferred to The Courier Mail Newspaper.

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Photo Credit: Patrick Hamilton; Photo Optimized by JPEGmini Pro

Did the University prepare you enough to be a photojournalist?

To be honest, studying photography did have its technical advantages, but really apart from teaching me to learn how to drink, it really did nothing to help me land any sort of photojournalism job. As I am much older, I really think that if one wants to be a photographer – you just have to be a photographer….. Everyone is a photographer now. I have always kept tearsheets and layouts and valuable negatives, so it is vitally important to keep a record of your career, because it’s these tearsheets and layout’s that WILL assist in getting any sort of jobs. That is why having a really good website and utilizing the multitude of social media channels available now, will help you in the long run.

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Photo Credit: Patrick Hamilton; Photo Optimized by JPEGmini Pro

If I were to ask you what was the most memorable moment or picture of your career, what would you say?

It’s very hard to name the best picture or moment throughout one’s career. I’ve been shooting behind the camera now for well over 30 years, during this time I have had the opportunity to shoot Olympics, Rugby World Cup’s , Ashes Test cricket series, Australian Federal elections, numerous natural disasters and International stories, and I can say I’ve enjoyed it all ….. but my personal work is always with me and the times I can make the small moments into beautiful pictures are the times when it is always good.

Winning awards are always great because it does give you recognition and in saying that, winning Australia’s Walkley Award is definitely a highlight – but it’s working with some of the best journalist’s and photographer’s that helps me realize journalism is a great life, even in these very tough times for media companies around the world.

Photo Credit: Patrick Hamilton; Photo Optimized by JPEGmini Pro

Ready for part 2 of this interview? Then click here!

Want to learn more about Patrick Hamilton? You can visit his website by clicking here. Located in Brisbane, Australia, Patrick is available for assignments of any genre.

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