Harry Hamburg shares his life experiences as a photojournalist

Harry+Hamburg+shares+his+life+experiences+as+a+photojournalist

Hamburg, Harry

by S. Baldwa, W.Chang, K.Lin, A. Mayor, J.Xu

Standing behind a massive throng of eager journalists all vying for the perfect spot, any photographer might find it impossible to capture the perfect shot. However, one aggressive Associated Press photojournalist was unfazed. Turning to a less experienced colleague, he said, “Come here Mickey. I’ll show you how it’s done.” With that he dove into the crowd, plowing his way down the middle of the line and emerging at the front table. Before the words “Sir, I’m sorry you can’t be here,” could dissuade him, there it was—the front-page photo of the next issue of The Washington Post in just one frame.

A New York Daily News photographer for 39 years and currently a semi-retired AP photographer, Harry Hamburg is by nature an assertive and amiable person. These personality traits serve as the backbone of his success in photojournalism.

“The one thing you never want to do is tell Harry Hamburg ‘no’,” said Hamburg, paraphrasing a friend in an exclusive interview with the TalonWP staff.

When in a business like photojournalism, connections are the key to getting photos in places where most do not have access, according to Hamburg.

“Everybody knows the President of the United States, but when the President of the United States knows you, that’s how you get photos,” he said. “That’s how you get in.”

For one, Hamburg became so closely acquainted with President George W. Bush and his family that the president personally called Hamburg’s late wife to check on her while she battled cancer.

“His politics are the other end of the world from mine, but I still love [him],” Hamburg said about President Bush.

Aside from access to the inner political circle, he truly cherishes his close relationship with Bush and other prominent public figures who he met as a result of his work.

Hamburg’s penchant for whimsical flair in both leisure and work is evident in the street-side shots he calls “happy snaps,” as well as quirky portraits of some of the most serious men on Capitol Hill. Whatever the focus of his photography, Hamburg has an eye for the unique angles in any setting, from New York Giants games to black tie political events.

When asked about his personal favorite snapshot, Hamburg named a candid portrait of Hillary Clinton fixing her make-up before a campaign rally appearance. Of all subjects to photograph, Hamburg has a preference for capturing spontaneous and sometimes absurd moments involving people. Somehow, Hamburg found himself in the right place at the right time in many instances, capturing the moments that most would overlook.

In some situations, Hamburg goes to great lengths to get the images he desires. Being able to ignore the awkwardness of photographing random people in the street has helped develop the eccentric collection of photos for which he is known. The ever-reclusive Katharine Hepburn was one of his more tedious, yet amusing tasks.

“I had shot through the windshield of her taking wood out of her trunk and knew if she saw me, it was over,” Hamburg said. “She starts walking right into her house, and I yell ‘Ms. Hepburn!’ She turns around, ‘Bing Bing,’ and that’s it.”

While his passion is evident, above all, Hamburg’s witty sense of humor defines his personality. His advice to aspiring photojournalists was first, “Go to medical school!” However, he then elaborated that the best way to be successful in his trade is to come up with distinctive photo ideas. If 200 photographers are at a single event, the one with the most unique shot will get published, Hamburg explained.


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