One Month Later: Reflections on Occupy Oakland
Occupy Oakland didn’t topple the banking elite, or take all the dirty money out of politics, but it did have one positive, albeit unintended, consequence- it jumpstarted my photojournalism career. It’s actions (and the reaction from the city) made Oakland the epicenter of the international anti-Wall Street movement. With that fame came news agencies and media outlets who were too small, or simply too far away, to have their own boots on the ground.
People all over the world rushed to the web to search for images and video of the events of October 25, when the Oakland Police Dept (and other assisting agencies), used tear gas and other non-lethal force on the Occupy Oakland protesters, which put my work before thousands of people. After receiving some positive feedback from other photographers covering Occupy, I sent links to my work to the photo editors at the San Francisco Chronicle and The Associated Press. I didn’t hear back but I sent more work the following week when a day of peaceful protest and a night of violent protest once again put Oakland in the national spotlight.
The keys to success as a photographer are twofold- take compelling images and be persistent, and not necessarily in that order. I had heard from other photographers that photo editors aren’t the fastest to reply to email, especially during periods of intense activity, which in its heyday, Occupy Oakland certainly qualified as, so I kept emailing. Never requiring a response, but suggesting that one would be welcome.
Finally, (and sadly, as Occupy was winding down in Oakland), I received responses from both photo editors. The AP was the first to respond, and asked me to pass on some images from the general assembly in Oakland that night. They bought a few single images then, and the following day invited me in to their SF office to sign a freelance contract, (my thoughts on that in a following post).
During and after Occupy I sold work to Good magazine (for a slideshow on their website unfortunately, not the magazine), United Press International, The Associated Press, and San Francisco Magazine. Of course, the attention and portfolio-quality work are priceless but must be considered benefits too.
When all is said and done, Occupy Oakland really happened at a good time in my life.