Q+A - What it's like to be a military photographer.

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Tamgerine

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Thanks for doing what you do, Tammy. Death by PowerPoint would be even worse without combat camera.
The only soldier in my brigade to make the ultimate sacrifice on my last deployment was a combat camera attached from another unit. She was too close to an ANA mortar training accident, which also took the lives of several Afghans. I guess my question is, who is looking out for you, and making that judgement call that the photos aren't worth the risk? I can appreciate that as a junior NCO it can be difficult to put your foot down, especially if you're being attached to other units and separated from your NCO chain.

Sent from my phone with my giant, uncoordinated sausage thumbs.

Thanks for doing what you did, too. I think a lot of people in the military, especially those who I know right now in the Marine Corps, feel that they're not doing enough because they're not kicking down doors and fighting bad guys. Everyone who serves does it in their own way to the best of their abilities. We all contribute.

As for who is looking out for me, it depends on where we're at in the support chain. At the top is my Gunnery Sgt. who coordinates all the big support jobs. If we get a request for a big shoot like a patrol, convoy, or support to Afghan forces they have to have their trash together. That means a solid travel/security plan. We've had last minute requests where there were no details, or the plan was iffy. That's a no go.

We always have security with us when we provide support to the Afghans. You can't just hop on an Afghan convoy, for example.

On things like ranges it'll be the range personnel or the advisors who monitor the safety of the training.

After that it's me. I will admit I'm not the most safety conscious individual. I"ll wander off if I'm able to. I'm young, feel invincible, and have a gun. What else could I ask for? There have been several times where my simply being there (because I'm female) has drawn a crowd or unwanted attention. I've been surrounded a few times and at that point it's my job to say "enough" and get myself out of that situation without creating havoc or an international incident.

Beyond that you just kind of accept the risk. It's a risky job sometimes and you just have to evaluate each situation differently.

I wouldn't say it's too difficult for me to put my foot down. When it comes to security issues we take it very seriously here. I'm also the Subject Matter Expert on deck - you've got ONE of me, and if you want photo support like you requested you'll have to listen to what I need and where I need to be. But I also know when I can get away with things and when I can't. If I'm out on patrol I'm not the boss - I work within their limits. They're the professionals with all the experience, running the patrol, keeping everyone safe, fighting the fight. In some situations I just do what I'm told.
 
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Tamgerine

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So what has been going on lately! The holidays! And that means: VIPs!

Duck Dynasty paid us a short visit along with some other celebrities and high ranking military personnel. I'll be honest, I wasn't very star struck. I'd never seen Duck Dynasty and didn't know who these guys were or how popular they were. I shot some photos, nothing amazing, same old same old. Suddenly I saw one of my photos all over a bunch of military Facebook pages and just everywhere on the internet.

$1069777.jpg

This photo got very popular. I was kind of mad and felt really dumb. I was mad because over my career I've taken what I'd like to think are some pretty good photos. It was like, "THIS? This is what the world wants to see? Did you see that surgery I photographed and THIS is what you want?" I also felt dumb because I didn't think it was a big deal and didn't post the photo to any social media stuff until it was kind of old news. So everyone else picked up on it long before I did.

$1143430.jpg

The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps came for thanksgiving and I spent the day flying around to all the FOBs with him. The Commandant of the Marine Corps came for Christmas though and presented some cool helmets to these two 1/9 guys who had been injured in combat. One guy was shot in the helmet and wrote on his missing gear statement, "I was shot in the helmet by the enemy. I need a new one. I do not wish to reimburse the government."

Well apparently it went viral too and my photos made it to an article on Business Insider. It's a pretty cool read about some lucky dudes: Wounded Marine Behind Viral Email Gets New Helmet Hand-Delivered To Afghanistan By Corps' Top General | Business Insider India

$1143803.jpg

I hate flying. It's scary. We took what seemed like a bajillion flights on Christmas visiting a ton of Marines in the area. I worked from 0730 to probably 2100 at night just doing the photo thing. On the very last flight home the sun was setting and the second Osprey was flying behind us. It was surprisingly peaceful.

That is the tale of Sgt. Hineline being glad the holidays are over! The End.
 

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You have amazing photos! Thanks for sharing! So, because you are a photographer in the military are you able to take on side jobs (as in weddings, family portraits...)? If you wanted to or would that be a conflict of interest? -I think you may have touched on it before but was not certain on the answer!
 
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Tamgerine

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You have amazing photos! Thanks for sharing! So, because you are a photographer in the military are you able to take on side jobs (as in weddings, family portraits...)? If you wanted to or would that be a conflict of interest? -I think you may have touched on it before but was not certain on the answer!

Thanks! I'm not supposed to use government equipment for commercial means, but as long as I don't do that it's fine. I do shoot portraits and personal work on the side when I'm at home. I don't primary on weddings, though. Because of my job I'm called away suddenly a lot and I can't in good conscious tell a bride I'm going to be at her wedding and then leave her without a photographer because I was given duty that day, or have to go shoot something for work. It's definitely not a conflict of interest, though.
 

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http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/...ary-combat-camera-good-start.html#post3124822

Lovr your photos, awesome work. I'm going to be getting out of the USN soon and working with a USAF-R recruiter to go in with them as either an EOD tech or a still photographer in their SOCAL comcam unit. I recently created a thread with few questions regarding comcam and how it could possibly translate to a photographers professional career. Particularly in fashion/portrait/editorial photography. Id love to hear your thoughts on it as a present day operator. Feel free to PM me also! Thanks!

( Link to my thread up top)
 
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Tamgerine

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Oh, also Merry Christmas everyone. <img src="http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/attachments/photographic-discussions/63060-q-what-its-like-military-photographer-merrychristmas.jpg"/>

I see Bryson is in your shop, I went to Syracuse with him. Some nice photos, good luck at MILPHOG.

Small world! He's an awesome guy and crazy fun to work for.

For anyone interested, I just put up my 2013 in Review on my blog. Come for the Afghans, stay for me getting wrapped up in Rimage CD label ribbon.

Tammy Hineline | Illustrative Photographer | Eastern NCTammy Hineline, Illustrative Photographer
 

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First of all, Sgt. Hineline--thanks for your service and thanks for contributing to this thread. Single best thread I've seen on this site. I wish you a great holiday season and a safe return stateside when your deployment is over.

Second, let me vouch for the Combat Camera team. Every one with a military camera role I've ever had contact with impressed the hell out of me. Good people. For the post much earlier in the thread that said "why not have photojournalists do this?"...it's a totally different agenda. As a PJ, you're looking for the story or the money shot. You're not looking to document the promotion ceremony, the change of command, the tactical details, or documentation/evidence (that a host of military resources...from CID to unit historians to promotional boards to press information officers want and need) that are all just some of the things that the Combat Camera team is shooting on a daily basis.

Okay, three questions:
1. How much interaction do you have with civilian photojournalists? The complaint I always heard from people in uniform was "you guys just drop in and out--you're never here long enough to get a feel for how it REALLY is." The embed program was supposed to be one attempt to address that perspective. But I suspect that for most of your work, you're not seeing any civilian photojournalists/press shooting what you're shooting.
2. Any comments about Stacy Pearsall's "Photojournalist Field Guide"? I found it to be pretty good and spot on (with the caveat that it was obviously from a military perspective rather than a civilian photojournalist who has more freedom but also has to deal with visas and shot records).
3. Obviously American soldiers are targets in your neck of the woods. But I've heard from a couple of friends that unlike a couple of decades ago, civilian photojournalists are now being targeted in war zones in a way that didn't happen previously. In Beirut back in the 80's, photojournalists would wander back and forth across the green line, shoot Israelis and Maronite militia in the morning and the Fatah in the afternoon. What I've been told anecdotally is that civilian photojournalists are now a prime target. What's your sense of that?
 
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Tamgerine

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First of all, Sgt. Hineline--thanks for your service and thanks for contributing to this thread. Single best thread I've seen on this site. I wish you a great holiday season and a safe return stateside when your deployment is over.

Second, let me vouch for the Combat Camera team. Every one with a military camera role I've ever had contact with impressed the hell out of me. Good people. For the post much earlier in the thread that said "why not have photojournalists do this?"...it's a totally different agenda. As a PJ, you're looking for the story or the money shot. You're not looking to document the promotion ceremony, the change of command, the tactical details, or documentation/evidence (that a host of military resources...from CID to unit historians to promotional boards to press information officers want and need) that are all just some of the things that the Combat Camera team is shooting on a daily basis.

Okay, three questions:
1. How much interaction do you have with civilian photojournalists? The complaint I always heard from people in uniform was "you guys just drop in and out--you're never here long enough to get a feel for how it REALLY is." The embed program was supposed to be one attempt to address that perspective. But I suspect that for most of your work, you're not seeing any civilian photojournalists/press shooting what you're shooting.
2. Any comments about Stacy Pearsall's "Photojournalist Field Guide"? I found it to be pretty good and spot on (with the caveat that it was obviously from a military perspective rather than a civilian photojournalist who has more freedom but also has to deal with visas and shot records).
3. Obviously American soldiers are targets in your neck of the woods. But I've heard from a couple of friends that unlike a couple of decades ago, civilian photojournalists are now being targeted in war zones in a way that didn't happen previously. In Beirut back in the 80's, photojournalists would wander back and forth across the green line, shoot Israelis and Maronite militia in the morning and the Fatah in the afternoon. What I've been told anecdotally is that civilian photojournalists are now a prime target. What's your sense of that?

1. I do see a lot of civilian journalists, but it's short and limited. I've never seen an actual embedded one. They've always just come with VIPS or the brass, stayed for a short while, and left. I've met a few, shmoozed a bit, but nothing major.

2. I would really have to read the book and see how I felt about it. No doubt her photography is very good and she is quite decorated, but I'll admit, it's very hard to undo my USMC bias and not just roll my eyes and say, "Well, yeah, Air Force." We tend to not like Air Force CC, but it's probably just that we're totally jelly. Take JT Lock. Friggin' MILPHOG winner SEVEN times. A MSgt in the Marine Corps taking photos is completely unheard of because we consider that a leadership billet. You just don't do that sort of work anymore, you're in charge of leading and managing Marines in a shop. Heck, that stops as a Staff Sgt. in most places. We're all kind of under the impression that Air Force CC just gets to do whatever they want and we all roll our eyes and say, "Must be nice. I wish I could just go shoot whatever I wanted whenever I wanted."

You know what? I AM jelly. I really don't buy much into inter-service rivalry, but in this aspect it's hard. You've got some people with major rank and resources who seem like it's their JOB to shoot and win MILPHOG. I don't really consider that fair when everyone else has to deal with what deployments (or no deployments) they're given. There's always a lot of heated discussion when it comes to Lock, too. A lot of people think he's a jerk with too much access and freedom to do whatever he wants to do. It's also painful to think that for me this year is kind of MY last chance at MILPHOG. I'm going to be at the Pentagon for the next two years doing nothing operational. Then I'm either going to get out or be a Staff Sergeant and start running a shop. If I asked to travel to different countries covering crazy operations whenever they came up they'd laugh me out of the office and sit me back behind my desk.

I'm sorry. I really didn't intend for this to turn into an Air Force rant, back to the book. I'm sure it's very interesting and insightful, but I feel that photojournalism is one of those things where experience is key. You need a feel for people, a good idea of what you can physically and mentally deal with, and when to stop. All those things take time and experience to develop. I've learned a LOT over time and only maybe 10% of that has been about photography. I think I will check out her book, though. There ARE considerable obstacles to civilian photojournalists that we just don't face, though.

It does make me wonder though how she dealt with the copyright issue. I mean technically all of her military work should be public domain and she shouldn't be able to profit from them, but is that only restricted to while you're active duty? For example, as soon as I get out could I publish a book with all my imagery? I was once told by another Sergeant that I could buy my copyright back from the military, but he also said he was raised by wolves so I'm not sure how much I can trust what he says.

On to 3!: I think with the Arab Spring and Syria happening photojournalists have definitely been targeted a lot more, or have gotten a lot more unlucky. It's possible that many people feel that killing an American journalist will get them a considerable amount of attention - which is does. There's a lot of anger going in a lot of different directions and a camera doesn't shield you from that anymore. I think it used to be that if you wanted attention for your cause you needed to keep the photojournalists alive - now with everyone having access to cameras and social media they may see death as a better option to get their message out.

---

In other regards, I'll be home fairly soon. Our replacements are showing up and I'll kind of just be hanging out for a while. I have no problem admitting that I'm stressed out about it. I love what I do here and it's going to be a big change going home and having all the time in the world. What the hell am I supposed to do now? Videotape ceremonies for the next two years? Take promotion photos? Do paperwork all day?

Last time when I came home from my deployment I thought to myself, "That was the most amazing year of my life. I'm only 23, is the best year of my life already over? Am I really never going to experience anything like that ever again?" So I'm kind of going through the same thing right now.

It's a big issue and some people don't deal with it very well. You get used to an adrenaline rush from what you do over here, being busy ALL the time, and then suddenly it all stops? It's hard to adapt to. Some people come home and drink, or fight, or buy motorcycles.

I happen to be one of those people who is not dealing with it very well right now. Oh internet, you're so easy to talk to.
 

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Thanks for the quick turnaround and insightful answers. No problem with the AF rant. Though Pearsall's book has some useful info on transitioning to a photography business in the civilian sector so don't discount her work just b/c she's AF.

As for the work at the Pentagon....well, you'll be close enough to Quantico that maybe you'll be able to shoot some interesting stuff that doesn't qualify as ceremonial or staged events. Do be prepared for some major sticker shock when you get to the DC area though--expensive housing and terrible traffic. But it's also a great place to be a photographer in your down time. If you want to plan ahead, I suggest you contact the good folks associated with FotoDC (basically a weeklong series of exhibits, panel discussions),...for more info go here: https://www.fotoweekdc.org about being part of a panel discussion or program on CombatCamera or just your own work. Also worth approaching the Newseum (who have done some great temporary and standing exhibits on photojournalists but have sadly unrepresented the military photographer). You'll have more than enough to keep you busy in the DC area outside of your "day job" plus expand your photographic skills.
 
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We're home, everybody! After a few days of travel and some long flights we're finally back. Back to the land of weekends and real toilets!

$Homecoming.jpg

It's a little strange but I'm trying to adjust. I'm trying to keep as busy as I can and we've got a big move ahead of us. Soon I'll fly home to visit family and celebrate a postponed Christmas. Presents and cookies FTW.

I wrote a longbutt blog post about coming home if you're interested in hearing a little bit more about it: Coming HomeTammy Hineline, Illustrative Photographer

As always I'll continue answering questions if you've got 'em, but the excitement is over now unless you want to ask me about going through all the junk in my storage unit and cat shopping. Less war, more me hanging around the house in my sweatpants.

If you're wanting to follow what I do in the future (military, personal work, etc.) the best place is at my website or...

On my Facebook here: http://facebook.com/tammyhinelinephotography
I'm always also at 500px here: Tammy Hineline
Flickr here: Flickr: Tammy_Hineline's Photostream

And I am on Instagram here: Instagram (There's not much there unfortunately as I just joined and only own an iPad at this point. I was too cheap to get a smartphone but planning on it soon!)

Now to go put on those sweatpants...
 

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Congrats on getting home ok!,
 
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Tamgerine

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Thanks for the quick turnaround and insightful answers. No problem with the AF rant. Though Pearsall's book has some useful info on transitioning to a photography business in the civilian sector so don't discount her work just b/c she's AF.

As for the work at the Pentagon....well, you'll be close enough to Quantico that maybe you'll be able to shoot some interesting stuff that doesn't qualify as ceremonial or staged events. Do be prepared for some major sticker shock when you get to the DC area though--expensive housing and terrible traffic. But it's also a great place to be a photographer in your down time. If you want to plan ahead, I suggest you contact the good folks associated with FotoDC (basically a weeklong series of exhibits, panel discussions),...for more info go here: https://www.fotoweekdc.org about being part of a panel discussion or program on CombatCamera or just your own work. Also worth approaching the Newseum (who have done some great temporary and standing exhibits on photojournalists but have sadly unrepresented the military photographer). You'll have more than enough to keep you busy in the DC area outside of your "day job" plus expand your photographic skills.

I definitely noticed that about apartments. We're looking at websites and they all kind of read like hotels. "Beautiful fitness center, shuttle to the metro, minutes away from shopping, eat-in kitchens!"

I'm actually kind of overwhelmed with all the options. I'm used to places being all, "I know what your BAH is so that's what I'm going to charge and you only have three other options in town that charge the same thing." I don't know what to pick!

The term wall-to-wall carpeting is funny to me, though. What carpeting doesn't go from one wall to the other? Like the other option is the carpet ends halfway through the room and the rest is just dirt?
 

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