I went to a journalism conference in Gainesville, Fla., over the weekend. I flew out of Columbia with my colleague, Lynda, whom I don’t see as often as I used to (she got a big promotion.)
We were seated together out of Columbia and wanted to sit together on the next leg of the flight, too, but we had seats in different rows. But Lynda was in the seat right behind me, so we thought that was good enough. The person I sat next to was unknown to me and we didn’t even say hello to each other. I was ok with that because I didn’t really want to talk to a stranger. Turns out, neither did she.
I opened my book so I wouldn’t have to talk to her. She was reading a magazine, so I felt safe. Then she opened her mouth. She said something like, “Oh, you’re a shooter.” That’s all it took. A friendship between two photographers clicked that day.
Quite by chance we ended up seated next to each other. Though neither of us likes to talk on the plane, we talked for the entire 90 minute flight. And all day Friday. And Saturday. By the flight home Sunday we had decided that we were long-lost sisters. I’m the older sis, she’s the cuter sis. It was meant to be.
Both of us are college professors as a second career. We both came up through the ranks of daily newspapers, both as photographers then into management positions. Amazingly, it seems we’ve never crossed paths before but we’ve had several near hits (“near miss” just is not the correct wording) and our circle of professional links overlaps greatly.
Alysia is in her first year of teaching, I’m in my fifth. She’s at a school with limited resources, I’m at Missouri, with more than 100 years of a strong journalism program. We just added to our still/video/audio equipment with 20 Nikon D7000 cameras; some of her students are using their cell phones in her beginning photojournalism class. We have a lot to share with and learn from each other.
But I think our relationship will grow beyond just the professional stuff. She’s smart, funny, easy to spend time with and still driven to take pictures. She cares about her students so much that she’s taking them — on her own time — down to the Delta area of Mississippi to shoot photos and work on stories. She’s neat people. We all need neat people in our lives.
I think she’s going to find equally inspiration from me, with a few more years both on the streets and in the classroom. I can help her navigate her new world of university procedures and politics. We have enough in common that we’re speaking the same language, yet enough differences that we both know things that are new to the other.
Of what we know about each other so far, our biggest different is that she has a cat. I’m allergic to cats. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to growing this friendship.
P.S. Just as coincidentally, we were seated together on our flight out of Florida. I do believe in karma.
*All puns intended