Becoming a Military Photographer

Discussion in 'Education' started by amy_r|4, Apr 9, 2007.

  1. Hello everyone,
    I suppose you could say i'm having somewhat of a midlife crisis, although i'm
    only 31. I have a BFA in photography and have been working my butt off to get a
    very lean amount of editorial work and some commercial work. I am frustrated
    with my subject matter and it's lack of relevance to a meaningful life. I love
    documentary photography, more importantly i love the human condition and the
    stories that can be told through images. I have friends who are active
    military, but I am relatively military retarded. I am 31, a woman, and
    interested in learning about the photography jobs offered in the military. Is
    it competitive? Are some branches better than others for photography? Do you
    need to be active duty? boot camp and all? Are there perks to already having a
    degree? I would love some informed thoughts and opinions about this. I am
    determined, and realize it would not be a walk in the park. Newspapers gigs are
    tough to crack with a portfolio full of fine art and lifestyle editorial work.
    Thanks in advance for your time.

    -Amy
     
  2. I asked this same question somewhere else awhile ago,

    I got responses from both active and ex military photogragraphers, newspaper photographers, infantry soldiers, airforce engineers, etc. etc.

    to be part of the forces you have to go through basic just like everyone else. to my understanding in the Marines you even have to be trained as a rifleman as well, with the canadian forces you just do basic and then ship off to a 90 day image tech school. ive heard that air force is better because of living conditions. i dont think there are any perks to having a degree in the military as an enlisted soldier, the only way a degree helps is if you are going in to be an officer. i've been told that the first while is handshake and ceremony shots, very few are assigned to a combat camera group. something like 12 out of 250 photographers in the canadian forces are actual in the combat camera group. from what ive seen, the ones getting into the action are the ones who've already trained in other combat mos's and remustered after a few years.

    in the end i decided not to because my vision of a military photographer is not even close to what most do today. in my uninformed mind i had ideas of every military photographer taking photos of planes on bombing runs and soldiers parachuting in, etc. . with my luck id be stationed on some base up north taking photographs of ceremonies and changing of commands. the pay for an enlisted soldier is honestly nothing special (everyone says you don't do it for the pay). id reccomend contacting some photographers in the military as i doubt youll find in depth info on the websites or even from a recruiter.

    it didnt sound at all anything like i wanted it to be, but i probably watched too many vietnam movies though...
     
  3. >i love the human condition and the stories that can be told through images.

    That sounds like you want the creative freedom to explore the telling of such stories.

    I have nothing to do with any country's military, and I could be utterly misinformed, but I
    don't get the sense that the military of any country place a particularly high priority on
    encouraging the personal creative freedoms of their enlisted men and women. Especially in
    today's political climate.
     
  4. First let me say, at least in the US Navy, there is a HUGE difference in pay and benefits between being an officer and an enlisted person. I was in the US Navy in the 80's and the photographers I met were all enlisted and they all were having a difficult time making rank because there was an abundance of them. At that time the Navy was moving away from training Naval personnel for the various jobs and began hiring contractors. I can't say if they are doing that with photographers but they completely did away with the job I was doing for them so I got out and now I'm doing the same thing as a civilian for a civilian company.
    Another thing I should mention, when we got "new" furniture in the barracks the rumor was it was the stuff the Air Force didn't want.
    Good luck!!
     
  5. One thing that should be kept in mind is that in the military, you do what you are told to do. That includes military occupational specialties. If you are promised a job as a 'photographer' in the military, first - get it in writing. What is commonly known as a 'dream sheet' is simply a statement of what you'd *like* to do, and it is is routinely ignored once you're in. Second, even if you do get a promise in writing, although you will probably be sent to the school for the MOS you signed on for, you may still find yourself assigned to do something else. I was trained as a payroll clerk. I was assigned as a military policeman. That type of thing is very common.

    You should also be aware that the US military has one job - to kill people. That's really what it all comes down to. Whether you support the troops who pull the triggers by feeding them, driving them places, tossing them out of planes, giving them boat rides, doctoring them up, taking their photos, paying them, praying with them, or folding a flag over their coffins, the military's job is to aim deadly weapons at the enemy and kill them on command. There's no "I'm a photographer, not a rifleman" nonsense in combat, nor any "I didn't sign up to shoot at people." Yes, you did. If you are joining to "be a military photographer," remember that your first job is to kill people. Your MOS is secondary, even if it does end up being what you do most of the time.

    Now, to answer your questions. Is it competitive? Sure, but mostly in the butt-kissing favoritism sort of way.

    Are some branches better than others for photography? Depends on what kind of photography you want to do. The Air Force and Navy don't do much hand-to-hand combat, so be prepared to take lots of photos of base change-of-command ceremonies and new chow-hall openings, and the winner of the base Officer's Spouse Association's latest flower-growing exhibition. If you hanker after face-in-the-dirt combat photography, you're going to do better with the Army or the Marines.

    Do you need to be Active Duty? These days, what's the difference? If you join the military in the Reserves, you're most likely going to be 'activated' for the duration.

    Do you need to go to boot camp? Yep. All branches have an enlisted boot camp, and you must go to the one that your chosen branch has. Some boot camps are longer than others, some are more, er, physically rigorous than others. Don't let that bother you. Even if you think you can't make it, you can make it. It fixes things that are wrong with you in ways you can't understand until you've been through it.

    Having a four-year degree from an accredited college is an advantage *if* you want to be a leader of photographers and not a photographer. Instead of 'enlisting' for a period of time, you'd be receiving a commission as an officer, and you'd serve until any required time was up, and then until you choose to resign (you can't resign as enlisted, you serve until your contract is up). Officers go to a different 'boot camp', they get paid a whole lot more, and all enlisted ranks are required to render respect by saluting and referring to you as 'ma'am' ('sir' for male officers of course). Officers are likewise obligate to return salutes given. But in most branches, non-combat officers serve administrative functions. Imagine you might find yourself assigning a team of photographers to cover various functions, coordinating with units to make sure the photogs got invites, were on-hand on time, arranged travel, and so on. Junior officers are often like office manager types. Lot of paperwork, not so much photography.

    You may find it easier to get an embed into a military unit as a civilian photojournalist (with your own money). You may not be able to wangle a job with a big newspaper, but bloggers have done it. And I would venture a guess that if you did that and sent back valuable images, newspapers would snap them up - on your return, you'd have credentials more than just having a Fine Arts degree. Just a thought, though.

    I hope you find what you want, and achieve your goals in life. I'd urge you to consider that the military is not a hobby that you can pick up and easily discard if you get tired of it. It is a job, and a serious one, and no matter what you *think* your job in the military is, ultimately, you go where you're told and do what they tell you to do - you may not like that once you're in.
     
  6. What about joining the military for the sake of joining the military (i personally aspire to being a pilot, been a long time dream for me and it would almost be a shame to not try for it) and then using the fact that you are/were military to get access to bases for the sake of photography? If you join the airforce, and are on leave, would it be easier as a military enlisted person to get on board of a carrier visit? In other words, special access quirks...
     
  7. I spent 20 years in the Navy journalism/photography/public affairs realm; now I'm a civilian public affairs officer on a Navy base. Personally, I think this arena is the best job in the armed forces, bar none.

    There are two types of shooters in the military, enlisted and civilian. Officers are more managerial types, rarely do they pick up a camera. As civilians, we're limited in the type of shooting we do, on account of civilians don't get put in harms way the same as military personnel. If you're wanting to go in theater as a photographer, you're looking at enlisting. Which means boot camp.

    As for which service is the "best" for photography, that really depends on what sort of shooting you want to do and whether you want to be quasi-military (i.e., Air Force) or ultra-military (i.e., Marine Corps) for your time in uniform.

    The Air Force is probably the least "military" of the military branches. They have the shortest boot camp, and much of the way they do business is more corporate than the other branches. They put the greatest emphasis on the job you do, whereas the other branches take the attitude that you're a soldier/sailor/Marine first and a photographer second. As such, they have a reputation for treating their junior personnel better, make a point of providing better housing, etc., and thus they have low attrition rates. The bad news is that because nobody's getting out, promotions can be very slow.

    The Navy just went through a huge merger in the communications field, combining our photographers, journalists, draftsmen (graphic artists) and lithographers (printers) into one mega-job called mass communication specialists. As such, if you go Navy, you won't be a photography specialist, but instead a communication generalist that could easily end up as a writer, as a broadcaster on radio or TV (at an AFRTS affiliate overseas). The Navy does have the advantage that our assignments are the most varied; instead of being at one base somewhere, you could get a tour on a ship and see a lot of the world in a very short time. Traditionally Navy promotions are some of the fastest; truth be told, because of the merger, promotions in the communications arena are very, very slow right now.

    The Army and the Marines are pretty much everything you think they would be. Right now, the vast majority of soldiers and Marines are pulling duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, that also means that as an Army or Marine photographer, you'll have some grand opportunities to get some great photos. The Marines have the longest boot camp and are by far the most militarily demanding of the branches; the Army comes in second place.

    Wigwam's a little confused about dream sheets. If you negotiate with your recruiter that you're coming in to be a photographer, you WILL get it in writing (though if the recruiter doesn't want to give you photo school right away, but wants to convince you to go to infantry school or anything else, walk out of his office and sign nothing). Dream sheets come into play once you're already in the service; that's part of a conversation process between you and your detailer as to what your next duty assignment will be. As a photographer, you will go from photo assignment to photo assignment; what's open for discussion is where that assignment is and what you'll be taking pictures of while you are there. If you end up at a state-side base, it is possible that you'll spend all your time taking pictures of grip-and-grins and change-of-command ceremonies, not very exciting. But the emphasis for all branches is on the operational units, so it's more likely that you'll end up in a squadron or on a ship in a field unit, taking photos of your military branch doing whatever it does best.

    As far as your BFA, it opens up your options a bit. You can go to OCS and become an officer. The pay is better, the prestige is higher ... but you'll almost never get to touch a camera. Even as a photo officer or public affairs officer (which is what I do now), our job is more to manage to program than to actually do the work.

    If you want to shoot, you need to go enlisted. The pay isn't as good, but your degree will allow you a boost to start off (most branches will bring you in as an E-3 rather than the standard E-1), and having a degree will also improve your promotion potential somewhat over others who don't have degrees.

    If the pay interests you, here's a link to the current military pay tables:

    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/fy2005paycharts/a/paycharts.htm

    Also, if you want to go civilian, here's the federal civilian pay rates (as a photographer with a BFA, I'd expect you'll start around the GS-7 area):

    http://www.opm.gov/oca/06tables/indexGS.asp
     
  8. Look at some of the work these folks do: http://www.estripes.com/ Maybe contact some of the editors and talk it over with them. They may also hire civilians. But in either case, be prepared to go places they now call "downrange". I did a lot of photo work as an Army counterintelligence agent in Europe during the Cold War, but that was a long. long time ago in a universe far away. Now my successors jump out of airplanes.
    00KhYU-35953884.jpg
     
  9. >>> I spent 20 years in the Navy journalism/photography/public affairs realm; now I'm a
    civilian public affairs officer on a Navy base. ...

    Great summary David - and nice getting insight and advice from someone who's actually
    been through
    it.
     
  10. WOW, thank you for the thoughtful responses everyone, it is MUCH appreciated. I would really love to be more of a combat photographer, rather than a base photographer, which sounds like that means enlisting and the whole nine yards. The idea of being hooked onto a squadron or platoon (forgive my military lingo ignorance!) seems like the most ideal to me, getting to travel with them, be in the thick of things. I could work taking senior portraits right now while living as a civilian, if that's really what floated my boat. David, what do you mean by going "the civilian route"? Is that what you are currently doing? Do you still sign a contract, or? Am I being delusional, or overly romantic, in my notion that the military might provide me with opportunities tough to find in the civilian world without a long impressive list of credentials? I am a bit hesitant to go talk to recruiters, as I've heard they can be as relentless as a used car salesman. I don't want someone to tell me what i want to hear, i want to know the nitty gritty. Plus there is the whole issue of me being a 31 year old female....I want to be taken seriously, not patted on the head and grinned at.

    anything is possible right?
     
  11. At 31 (same age as me!) you are pushing the upper age limit - if you are going to do this, you'll have to set the ball rolling soon. Good luck!
     
  12. "Wigwam's a little confused about dream sheets. If you negotiate with your recruiter that you're coming in to be a photographer, you WILL get it in writing (though if the recruiter doesn't want to give you photo school right away, but wants to convince you to go to infantry school or anything else, walk out of his office and sign nothing). "

    Sorry, it's been a long time since I was in, but at the time, if a recruiter could not get a guarantee for you for what you wanted to do, they'd still try to hook you with the 'Dream Sheet' where you specified three MOS's that you thought you'd like, and then you shipped to boot camp as "NG" (No Guarantee). Those guys got infantry every time - not sure what happened to the women who shipped open contract. And yes, the Dream Sheet also comes into play with your career jammer, after your first and subsequent enlistments.
     
  13. "David, what do you mean by going "the civilian route"? Is that what you are currently doing? Do you still sign a contract, or? Am I being delusional, or overly romantic, in my notion that the military might provide me with opportunities tough to find in the civilian world without a long impressive list of credentials?"

    "The civilian route" is what I am now. It's basically the same as being a civilian anywhere, you find a job that interests you, you send them your resume, you go through an interview process and if they like you, they hire you. No contracts like being on active duty, you quit or change jobs whenever you like. No past military experience required (although it helps - veterans get bonus points). And as a civilian, you aren't going to be told to go into a war zone (though every so often, there are opportunities for volunteers who want to do so).

    Based on your comment about wanting to be attached to a squadron, etc., and travel with them, you don't want to be a civilian. Most of our positions are attached to the various bases. We don't deploy. In that regard, we're exactly the opposite of what you're searching for.

    And you're right, the military will grant you opportunities that might not be available anywhere else, unless you bring with you a long resume and lots of credentials. With the military, you don't have to come bearing a portfolio to be a photographer, for example.

    The military will have you take a test early on, called the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery); the test is designed to help recruiters determine whether or not you have an aptitude for job XYZ, in your case, photography. The ASVAB is graded in such a way that, for example, they've got a certain batch of questions they consider for if you want to be a photographer, and another batch of questions they consider if you want to be a cook, etc.; it's not a single grade, but a series of grades that are combined and measured in different ways in order to determine what jobs you have an aptitude for. The fact that you have a degree in photography won't matter at this point, you still have to take the test and meet a certain standard off the test scoring to be considered. If you are considered, then the military will send you to their own photo school and re-train you to be a military photographer (your degree still won't matter, and some people have had trouble handling the schooling because they'd think they already knew it all having already gone to college for it).

    They'll also provide you with photo gear (the quality of which will vary from duty station to duty station). Anything you shoot, unless it's deemed classified, you're welcome to add to your personal portfolio (you just can't sell any of it, as it's ultimately property of the government and thus is public domain).

    Regarding your age and gender, I can tell you the latter is NOT an issue at all. Especially in the post-Clinton years, great steps are taken to ensure that women and minorities get all the same benefits in the military offered to white males. Your age, however, might be an issue; there's a cutoff on how old you can be to enlist (though I don't recall exactly how old that is, I think it's 36). Waivers can be given, though, especially when a branch is hurting for people (Army might be a good choice for that reason).

    Do you know anyone who's served? I would recommend, if you want, take a friend with military experience along when you talk to the recruiter. Now, the recruiters can get into huge trouble if it's ever proven that they lied or intentionally misled you, and so they will be straight with you. But that doesn't keep them from being, like you said, used car salesmen, wording things a certain way to make them sound better, or simply picking and choosing what they tell you, highlighting the good things and downplaying the bad. If you've got a friend that's been in the service, even if it's not the same branch you're looking at, they might be more keen to catch something that doesn't quite smell right.

    Also talk to recruiters from more than one branch, and if you can, multiple recruiters from the same branch. Then if somebody feeds you a fish story, you'll know it because it won't jive with what the other recruiters are telling you.

    And if they promise you anything, get it in writing. The standard policy is that any schools you are promised for joining, any automatic promotions, anything at all that the recruiter says you'll have, it will be in your contract. If he promises you photo school but doesn't put in your contract that you'll begin photo school on XYZ date, you aren't getting photo school. If he tells you that you need to go to this school or do this other thing and then you'll be able to negotiate later for photo school, don't sign - he's lying. If you want to be a photographer, then your contract will outline that as part of your initial training, you WILL be going to photo school. I can't say it strong enough, if it isn't in your contract, written explictly as such, you aren't getting it, so make sure it is. And if you want to be a photographer, even though you've already got a degree in it, you *want* to go to photo school - don't let the recruiter tell you otherwise.

    FYI, I will say this ... if you go Navy or Coast Guard, they don't have a specific photographer school. In both cases, newswriters and photographers are combined into one job, and so the school you would want is Mass Communications Specialist (Navy) or Public Affairs Specialist (Coast Guard). The other branches have photographers, although they know them under code numbers; the recruiters should be able to show you documentation that the code (called an MOS in most cases) he's signing you up for represents the job you're wanting to do.

    When I went in, though, my recruiter was straight with me and everything was pretty much what I expected it to be. I think it helped that I'd seen An Officer and a Gentleman a few times, and though that was about Navy OCS (officer) and I was going to Navy boot camp (enlisted), it sort of gave me a good prep for boot camp; if nothing else, it helped me to not take it personally when the company commander told me I was the worst excuse for a sailor he'd ever come across, after seeing the movie I understood that was just how the game was played and in a few weeks, there'd be a new recruit with the honor of being the worst he'd ever seen.
     
  14. Amy R, I don't know your background, but to photograph combat would not be high on my list of things to do, especially in the Army or Marines. I was in the Army for 9 years as an MP, during the Persian Gulf war, while I was not in the desert, I can tell you from first hand experience that death is not something that you want to see more than once. I?ve seen what a bullet can do to a body and what death smells like. Maybe dramatic, but it is part of the reality. Some of my buddies who came back from the Gulf were changed by what they saw. These guys were career Army, gung-ho and hard charging. Going to Iraq is probably one most selfless thing a person can do right now. I think you have a romantic view of a combat photographer, and need to really look into what it?s all about. Good luck to you in whatever you choose.
     
  15. David: thanks again for great info. it's appreciated. there is a lot to weigh out and think about indeed. what is OCS? if i were to go more the route you have taken, do you photograph only events on base, or? you mentioned "volunteer" opportunities....how often do those arise? The idea of being more of a journalist/writer, in addition to photographer, sound very appealing actually. Do you teach? Or do you have more of a manager type role for the program? Sorry for all the questions!

    Sean: I have much respect for those who have and are serving. I have a loved one in Iraq as we speak, he is a marine. I believe I have a bit more grounded sense of what deployment means, and how seriously changed one will undoubtedly be afterwards. I bet that after seeing what you have, and doing what you have done, your perspective on life is forever changed...and i'm guessing for the better. No one truly knows the war experience, until they are in the middle of it, i realize i am naive until then. i am just looking for a greater purpose, sense of fulfillment, in my life path. Right now I am a worker bee in a cube for a giant insurance corporation by day, and in my free time shooting Yoga studios and plates of fancy food for editorial publications. there's got to be something more, at least for me.
     
  16. I can't answer for the current situation, but when I served, the Air Force employed civilian photojournalists who traveled right along with and along side their active duty counterparts. I was always jealous because they seemed to get more fast-burner plane rides than the uniforms. The main difference, I believe, is that the civvies could not be ordered into a hostile environment, although they could volunteer (much like test pilots, I suppose).

    Most if not all of the civilian PJs I encountered had college degrees, but that had to do with the GS structure and prerequsites.
     
  17. dlw

    dlw

    Amy, I was an Air Force still photographer (AFSC 3VO72) assigned to the 1st Combat Squadron at Charleston AFB SC in the mid 90's and can tell you that David Crenshaw is giving you some very valuable information. Don't ignore it. I loved the job and thought it was the best one I had in my 20 year career. Dispite what one of the earlier posters said, we did have a very large measure of creative freedom to cover our assignments as we saw fit. Our gear was top notch. Keep in mind this was the med 90's, but my camera bag contained 2 Nikon F4s's, 2 SB-26 flash units plus a DCS 420 digital (high speed, low drag at the time) and a MAC powerbook laptop with the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. I also carried a personal Rollei 35 just in case I needed something not requiring batteries. We were also well funded and well trained. When not deployed, we spent our time at home station honing our photographic skills and allowed to shoot almost anything we wanted in the name of training. For me it was living the good life, but not everyone saw it that way. It was hard on family life with the constant deployments, and we relied on each other to take care of personal business if we didn't have spouses to do it for us. We were all aware it could be hazardous. We could shoot at the enemy all we wanted but Nikon's didn't seem to make the same impression as an M16 for some reason. There are books available that discribe what it's like to be a combat photographer and maybe you should read them. One that comes to mind is "Armed with Camera's" by Abraham Mazlowski. The book is about World War II photographers, but the lessons would still apply. If you decide to go for it, good for you, but make it an informed decision. Good Luck.
     
  18. OCS: Officer Candidate School. In essence, it's a boot camp program for college graduates so they can become officers.

    As a civilian, I mostly photograph events here on the base I'm attached to. I have known of opportunities where they've gone looking for civilian volunteers to go and assist in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those haven't been frequent, but I don't think it's hard to contact the right people and volunteer should I be so motivated. I'm not, so admittedly I haven't looked to deep into it.

    In the Navy, I was actually a writer rather than a dedicated photographer. All of the military writers get taught at the same place, the Defense Information School at Ft. Meade, Md. (near Washington, D.C.). That school focuses on newswriting techniques and public affairs/public information. There's also a brief introduction into photojournalism; see, the military considers a "photojournalist" to be more than just a news photographer, but to actually be writers that shoot and shooters that write. So writers are expected to shoot, too, though the dedicated photographers are expected to have a broader understanding of photography, in that they'll also be taught how to do studio photography, recon photography, etc.

    Following either the basic photography or journalism training, there's also an intermediate and an advanced course in photography. I went through the intermediate course later in my career; it's also taught at the Defense Information School. The idea of that course is to take writers and give them more of a foundation in shooting, and shooters and give them more of a foundation in shooting, and then give them both experience in feature and news photography.

    The advanced course, I never did, but friends who I know that went through it raved about it. It's gone back and forth between Syracuse University and the Rochester Institute of Technology as to which teaches it; currently I think it's back at Syracuse. But it's nine months of photography and writing classes taught at a university, with you going to classes right along with regular college students, and you don't wear a uniform -- but instead of paying for the classes, you get paid to go to class and the government pays for it all.

    Do be aware that the intermediate and advanced photojournalism courses aren't something you can negotiate with your recruiter. Those are programs that you apply for from within the service, after you've had a chance to prove yourself and build up your portfolio. But the nice thing is that all of the programs I just described are exactly the same for all branches of the military; so your decision on which branch you want to join doesn't have to hinge on which has the best photojournalism program, they all have the same one.
     
  19. I just looked back at my last post and realized I said that the intermediate course gives writers a foundation in shooting and shooters a foundation in shooting -- should have said shooters a foundation in WRITING. Oh, if I could only have an edit function for my posts here.

    Oh, you asked about teaching. I don't teach -- as a PAO, my job is to run the base communications. I oversee the newspaper, the website, media and community relations, etc. I sometimes actually get to write a story or take a picture, but for the most part I'm just a manager now.

    As for teaching, that's mostly done at DINFOS or at the various services' photo schools. And there are some civilians on staff, but there are also military folk; hang around long enough and proove yourself, and that could one day be a tour of duty you pull, training your successors.
     
  20. FYI, regarding age -- Fox News just did a story only moments ago about how the Army is in need of people, and so they've raised their cutoff age, from 35 to 42.
     
  21. David- you are a wealth of knowledge! So much great info! I've spent hours scouring the internet for info regarding military photography, and really there is not a whole lot. Thank you!

    So let me see if I have this straight, well sorta straight: I would need to enlist into said branch of military, go through basic training, and then get shipped off to wherever they want me. Then, i MIGHT get my desired MOS of combat camera, but if they don't have a spot and they need something else filled, I could wind up doing something else. and THEN, if I am super lucky and get combat camera, after a couple years I can apply to the photojournalism school in Maryland....and MAYBE get accepted. And if I am lucky enough to wind up with combat camera as my MOS, i MIGHT get to deploy with a battallion or squadron as their photographer. There are an awful lot of maybe's and mights it seems....and once I sign the contract, it seems they can do as they please, there are no guarantees. hmmm. this is where you wish you had the magic crystal ball! :)
     
  22. It's the same working for any large organization. As others have said, if you get your MOS in writing upfront, you're on surer footing. There is nothing to stop you going into any branch and taking your camera with you.

    42, wow, I think the upper age limit is 32 in the UK. Still I can't imagine being an adult living in your own place and then going back to sleeping in a barracks room and being shouted at by someone 10 years your junior.
     
  23. Yes, I have thought about the age thing and how I would deal with "regressing" in certain aspects of my adult world. I like structure, and I like staying fit, but I think the toughest thing would be giving up the independence of my own place, with own bed, where I can shut the door when I want. Also, friends and family would FLIP hearing what I was thinking right now, but I suppose I am not living my life to make THEM happy. Here's another question: would the military pay for my graduate school if i wanted to further my education beyond my BFA? Even if it was in photography or photojournalism?
     
  24. "So let me see if I have this straight, well sorta straight: I would need to enlist into said branch of military, go through basic training, and then get shipped off to wherever they want me. Then, i MIGHT get my desired MOS of combat camera, but if they don't have a spot and they need something else filled, I could wind up doing something else."

    Nope.

    When you sit down with your recruiter, whichever branch you decide has the best deal for you, he should be able to promise you, in writing, that you will be going to photo school or journalism school or underwater basketweaving school or whatever other school rocks your socks off at the time, immediately following your graduation from boot camp. If he isn't willing to put it in writing in your enlistment contract, walk out and have a sit down with a recruiter from your second favorite branch.

    And once you've signed the contract, both you and the branch you joined are bound to it. As long as you continue to maintain your eligibility for your school, they have to give you the school they promised. Understand though, that "eligibility" includes graduating from boot camp on time; if you delay in boot camp for reasons such as you have difficulty with the physical regimen or the various testing, to the point that you miss your school's start date, then the contract becomes void and you have to re-negotiate.

    What you can't negotiate with the recruiter is the intermediate or advanced photo/journalism programs. Those are goodies that you can get after you are in and have proven yourself, developed your portfolio. Of course, if you want to stay in, they're great negotiating tools for when it comes time to re-enlist -- if the Army/Navy/etc. wants to keep you another hitch, they have to be willing to give you the advanced school of your choice, that sort of thing.

    But that basic photography school or journalism school, that one will be in your enlistment contract and they can't take it away from you unless you do something to screw it up.

    "I like structure, and I like staying fit, but I think the toughest thing would be giving up the independence of my own place, with own bed, where I can shut the door when I want."

    Open bay barracks are pretty much a thing of the past, except for boot camp. After that, even if you live in what's called the barracks, it's really just two or three-man rooms, you'll have a locked front door and a lockable storage locker (the size of a large armoir) to keep your things in. And as you advance in rank, you'll eventually get a private room all to yourself. The worst part is that you have to keep it clean, as there are weekly inspections (though they only wear the white glove in boot camp and school -- once you're with a real unit, it's just to ensure you aren't living like a pig). The only time you'll have to deal with communal living outside of boot camp is while on deployment; whether it be on a ship or with a unit in the field (i.e., in tents), those times you'll be giving up your privacy, but back at the base you get treated almost like a human being. Almost.

    "Here's another question: would the military pay for my graduate school if i wanted to further my education beyond my BFA? Even if it was in photography or photojournalism?"

    Yes. There are several programs designed to pay for college. There's tuition assistance, which pays a portion of your tuition while you're on active duty (and I think all the services are up to 100 percent of tuition, though books are your responsibility). There's also the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which is where you sock away part of your paycheck every month and the military matches it, and then you've got a college allowance for after when you get out. Each of the branches have some of their own programs, too; ask your recruiter for details. And you can major in anything you want, anything at all. The only catches are (a) you have to be working toward a degree to get assistance, you can't just be taking a mishmash of classes for fun, (b) you have to be progressing forward, i.e., since you have a bachelor's, the military will help you toward a master's and eventually a Ph.D. if you're so motivated, but not a second bachelor's or associates, (c) there are per semester and per year caps, which really come in to play with graduate programs because the classes are so much more expensive then undergraduate courses -- just means you might be slowed down a little toward getting your master's, if you want the government to pay for as much as they will, (d) the school you attend has to be an acredited program, which isn't that the military has to acredit it, but that one of the national school acrediting programs has verified that you aren't just attending Bob's College of Underwater Basketweaving, but you're really attending a degree program at some place like the University of Maryland or a legitimate vo-tech program.
     
  25. David - Very interesting thread. Just curious, do enlisted people still do all the menial chores that we grunts did years ago, like cleaning toilets, pulling KP, overnight guard duty, and running errands for officers? Wouldn't that apply regardless of one's MOS or assigned main duties (at least, for a few years)?

    Amy - Service to others is a wonderful thing. Such perks as there are, however nice, really are secondary to the commitment to give that service. So, FWIW, just be sure you understand that bullets and IEDs don't care what your assigned job might be. Anyway, you're doing well to do so much research before you decide. Maybe sit on a decision for six months or a year, and see how you feel then. It's that big of a choice. Best of luck - JW
     
  26. "Just curious, do enlisted people still do all the menial chores that we grunts did years ago, like cleaning toilets, pulling KP, overnight guard duty, and running errands for officers? Wouldn't that apply regardless of one's MOS or assigned main duties (at least, for a few years)?"

    Yes. Though how much that you get to do that sort of thing depends on which service you end up in and where you are stationed. Our base, for example, has cleaning contracts, so even the most junior sailors don't have to do those sorts of chores, at least the cleaning and the like. But that's not the case everywhere.

    There are collateral duties that everyone in the military(uniformed personnel, not so much the civilians) has to do. The higher ranked you are, the less menial the jobs may be, i.e., privates clean toilets while seargants and officers manage the annual charity campaigns. But you're right, nobody really ever escapes those duties.
     
  27. I'm in public affairs 46Q and know that that mos needs personnel its just a thing of where you'll be.

    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/enlistedjobs/a/46q.htm

    Photography comes 2nd to the writing part and you get access to all the happenings of the command your attached to. I joined to become a combat phtg 25V but that wasn't available. There's a strong possibility you may find yourself in the sandbox and you have to mentally prepare for what you'd have to capture on film. There are many ways to document the human condition. Just my few cents.
     
  28. I like the Corps, but don't enlist just to be creative with photography. Especially at 31. Explore every other option but that one.
     
  29. hello,
    My name is Angela 21 going on 22 in a few months. Currently attending school to receive a BFA in Graphic Designer and an emphasis in photography. Wont be graduating until at least fall 2013. Unsure that once my degree is complete if working in the states will be satisfying. Was considering either joining the service or the peace-cor as a photographer. Strongly desiring to do something more meaningful in my life. Im not so concerned about the pay. Lets be honest people don't join the service for money. This to me is a chance to explore photography in recording history. Combat is what interests me most. Having reading a lot of the entries above what are the organization names that don't enlist but work as freelance photographers to the military? Is there also options to just volunteer for the military and not enlist? Also if at all possible it would be wonderful to see some of the photos of those that have shoot combat, ceremonies and so on? Has anyone had any near death experiences? would you enlist again today? how long do most enlist for?
    thank you for all your guys help...
     
  30. hello,
    My name is Angela 21 going on 22 in a few months. Currently attending school to receive a BFA in Graphic Designer and an emphasis in photography. Wont be graduating until at least fall 2013. Unsure that once my degree is complete if working in the states will be satisfying. Was considering either joining the service or the peace-cor as a photographer. Strongly desiring to do something more meaningful in my life. Im not so concerned about the pay. Lets be honest people don't join the service for money. This to me is a chance to explore photography in recording history. Combat is what interests me most. Having reading a lot of the entries above what are the organization names that don't enlist but work as freelance photographers to the military? Is there also options to just volunteer for the military and not enlist? Also if at all possible it would be wonderful to see some of the photos of those that have shoot combat, ceremonies and so on? Has anyone had any near death experiences? would you enlist again today? how long do most enlist for?
    thank you for all your guys help...
     
  31. hello,
    My name is Angela 21 going on 22 in a few months. Currently attending school to receive a BFA in Graphic Designer and an emphasis in photography. Wont be graduating until at least fall 2013. Unsure that once my degree is complete if working in the states will be satisfying. Was considering either joining the service or the peace-cor as a photographer. Strongly desiring to do something more meaningful in my life. Im not so concerned about the pay. Lets be honest people don't join the service for money. This to me is a chance to explore photography in recording history. Combat is what interests me most. Having reading a lot of the entries above what are the organization names that don't enlist but work as freelance photographers to the military? Is there also options to just volunteer for the military and not enlist? Also if at all possible it would be wonderful to see some of the photos of those that have shoot combat, ceremonies and so on? Has anyone had any near death experiences? would you enlist again today? how long do most enlist for?
    thank you for all your guys help...
     
  32. hello,
    My name is Angela 21 going on 22 in a few months. Currently attending school to receive a BFA in Graphic Designer and an emphasis in photography. Wont be graduating until at least fall 2013. Unsure that once my degree is complete if working in the states will be satisfying. Was considering either joining the service or the peace-cor as a photographer. Strongly desiring to do something more meaningful in my life. Im not so concerned about the pay. Lets be honest people don't join the service for money. This to me is a chance to explore photography in recording history. Combat is what interests me most. Having reading a lot of the entries above what are the organization names that don't enlist but work as freelance photographers to the military? Is there also options to just volunteer for the military and not enlist? Also if at all possible it would be wonderful to see some of the photos of those that have shoot combat, ceremonies and so on? Has anyone had any near death experiences? would you enlist again today? how long do most enlist for?
    thank you for all your guys help...
     
  33. I joined the Navy for the expressed intent of becoming a photographer. There we no openings at that time so I went into what they called Delayed Entry Program. My boot camp assignment was to coincide with the opening at photo school. Don't know if that still exists. Either way you are guaranteed a seat in the school, although at the time you had to add a year to your enlistment to get the school.
    It was better that getting a degree because they train you and then you work for those years doing photography.
    Be aware that the higher you move up in rank the less photography you actually do. It's more admin work, telling people to get haircuts, shining the belt buckle, that sort of thing. And if you are busted for drugs, all bets are off. You are at the mercy of whatever job they want you to do.
    Other than that, it was the best time of my life. I shot Queen Elizabeth's visit to Bermuda and had press privileges. I saw parts of the world, you'd never see otherwise and you have all the photo equipment you could ever use. If the detailer in D.C. hadn't lost all my records at my time to re-enlist, I would have stayed in for the career.
     
  34. Hello All,
    I came across this thread a few days ago and found it infinitely valuable - especially all of David Crenshaw's great advice! I'd be very curious to find out if Amy ended up pursuing military photography and what came of her interest in that. I've recently realized that military (specifically combat) photography is exactly what I feel like I'm meant to do. I can't imagine taking more meaningful and moving photos than of those serving. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread; I'm sure I'll have questions over the next few weeks and months of looking into this, so hopefully you will be able to provide even more insight and advice!

    ~ Rachel
     
  35. I second that notion. This conversation wouldn't be fully complete without finding out amy's decision. Hope she chose what was best for her!
    I'm also interested in this prospect. I've read all comments from this conversation and found it extremely helpful, specially because i'll be graduating next year with a BFA in photography with the interest of joining the navy as a photographer. Without conversations like these, i would be lost and perhaps making a naive decision. If anyone's still reading these, mind providing some feedback?
    For me, i would be joining primarily for the experience and sense of purpose. I personally crave struggle and first-hand experience as i find it motivating my photos to another level. Documentary photography is my passion, but i'm slowly finding war photography more alluring, partially because now-a-days, it's one of the only occupations left for a professional photographer that wouldn't be taken by an amateur with an expensive digital camera.
    A few years back, i met with Chris Hondros, a civilian war photographer for getty who became famous for his "Tal Afar" photos, at one of his speeches in pittsburgh.
    His work truly inspired me and i got the chance to talk with him one on one. You could see that he seemed unsettled but loved what he did. Thanks to him, i had something to look towards.
    He was killed with tim hetherington by an RPG in libya the same day the comment before this was posted. RIP.
    I'm now back on the fence about pursuing war photography. Perhaps military training would better prepare someone for this? What is your take on the photojounalism industry within the digital age? What is today's definition of a photojournalist?
    I found this quote inspiring-
    "While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind the camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us all." -Susan Sontag
     

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