Self-proclaimed as “the most boring guy you’ll ever meet with the most exciting job,” veteran Los Angeles Times photographer Mark Boster demonstrated the enjoyable and rewarding aspects of a career in photography on Thursday in the Great Hall at Pierce College as a part of the Media Arts guest speaker series.
Having worked several decades as a photographer, Boster has accumulated a wide thematic variety of photographs in his portfolio. Of the photos he presented on Thursday, there was a juxtaposition between the lighthearted celebrity, parade, nature photos, and the grave protest, natural disaster, and funeral photos.
“We’re telling the stories of the city, the triumphs and the tragedies,” Boster said. “Sometimes these stories aren’t always pretty and sometimes they aren’t always just and sometimes you don’t want to be there, but that’s our job we deal with life and death every single day.”
Jill Connelly, chair of the Media Arts Department, had previously worked with Boster when she interned with the Los Angeles Times as a photographer. Connelly contacted Boster via email and arranged for him to speak at Pierce College.
“He is such a people person,” Connelly said. “What I learned from him was that being a people person will get you the best photos.”
Boster’s presentation began with a slideshow of photographs he took at Yosemite National Park. He visited Yosemite for a family vacation and came back amazed by the sights. He suggested a photo essay of Yosemite during spring, but the travel section editor of the Los Angeles Times suggested an all-season coverage.
“Yosemite is my church. It’s one of the places I go to get close to God,” Boster said. “I think about it all the time I’m there, knowing something, somehow created all this.”
Boster took so many photos of Yosemite that after online and print publishing in the Los Angeles Times, there were several photos still leftover. His publisher friend approached him with the idea of publishing Boster’s pictures into a book of photography, which eventually became the coffee-table book, Four Seasons of Yosemite: A Photographer’s Journey.
The photos of Yosemite include many big landscapes, but Boster said that photographing the smaller details opened up “new worlds”. After going to a visually stimulating place such as Yosemite National Park, one is inclined to photograph the big geographical features.
“I got some really good wisdom from one of the photo editors,” Boster said. “He said, ‘we know you can do all that other stuff. I also want you to focus on the little things in Yosemite, not just the big things, the big grand rocks, but look for the little guys, the small objects.’”
These Yosemite travel segments led Boster to another project, a video series, “Postcards from the West”. The videos have a combination of still photos as well as live footage. Boster collects the music, the footage, the photo stills, and the sound.
“You can’t just be a film photographer you have to find all the different ways to tell a story,” Boster said. “There are many ways to tell a story. You can make a picture with stills, but when you start unlocking the possibilities with video it’s absolutely amazing.”
As mentioned previously, photography isn’t just covering light events. There are certain situations a photographer may have to be in, dangerous and life-threatening, just to capture a story.
In these cases, photographers are protected by California law 409.5 paragraph D, which basically states that a journalist can be at a scene of danger, fully understanding the potential risks, and not be arrested.
“We follow a basic code of decency,” Boster said. “They tell us you are safe here and we push it as hard as we can, but we keep a degree of professionalism because we have to work with these policemen again and we don’t want to burn our bridges.”
This veteran has a lot of advice for aspiring photographers and photojournalists. He has two general rules for beginning photographers: start shooting for a campus publication and never stop shooting.
“I find it really inspiring,” said photography student, Jaqueline Wallet. “Not just the photos themselves, but all the places he traveled to and the people, the stories behind the photos.”
Boster also teaches photography at Cal State Fullerton, where he obtained his own degree.
Though as an undergraduate at Cal State Fullerton, he had originally planned to play football and become an athletic coach.
“I received a scholarship to play football,” Boster said. “And that what I went to college to do. I had a love for photography on the side, and after a concussion it just became my whole life.”