By Mike Segar
One of the many great things about being a Reuters wire service photographer is the wide spectrum of things that you get to witness and photograph from assignment to assignment. Of course, not every assignment brings you to a place or a situation that excites or moves you emotionally or visually, but over the past week I have had the fortunate experience of shooting two completely different types of assignments that brought me to two completely different experiences.
From the final game of the 2012 NBA finals in Miami last Thursday night where I was front and center to photograph LeBron James and the Miami Heat as they celebrated clinching the title victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder where the pure joy and excitement of sport was on full display, to a far different type of emotion at a New York City prison where inmates earned their high school diplomas.
At the NBA finals, hours of preparation, the setting and testing of remote cameras, days of shooting the action of each game in the series and trying to capture the peak of action culminated in the release of emotion the players displayed after reaching their ultimate goal. As a photographer, the nerves and the anticipation of trying to make the best possible pictures of that emotion for our clients around the world dominate your focus and attention. When it is all over and the pictures have been sent a real sense of relief of knowing you captured the best of what happened on the court in front of you comes.
From that to this….
When New York staff photographer and assignments editor Brendan McDermid and Editor in Charge Adrees Latif asked me on Monday after I returned from the NBA finals if I would be interested in going to Rikers Island Prison, New York’s notorious massive correction facility to photograph inmates as they earned their high school diplomas, I immediately knew I was interested in this assignment. After seeing the great work done by my Los Angeles based colleague Lucy Nicholson on two recent stories in jails there, I was eager to see if this assignment might produce a rarely seen look at life inside a jail facility here.
Two massive agencies, the New York City Corrections Department and the New York City Department of Education are responsible for providing high school education to the thousands of young men and women incarcerated in New York’s jails while they await either trial or sentencing through the “East River Academy” on Rikers; a school for inmates.