Bullets, balloons and paintball

When people think of the word “photojournalist” they often think of a photographer covering some war-torn corner of the globe, however, I have never desired to be one of those photographers.

For a couple of reasons, I have always preferred to take local photos of the people and places much closer to home.

First, there are some people in Stockton who have never seen parts of the city other than their own neighborhood. I believe that it’s just as important to show people the world around them and bring it to their doorsteps as it it is to show war-torn Syria or Afghanistan.

Secondly, I’ve learned that I don’t have the skills to be a combat photographer.

Several years ago, I covered the opening of a new paintball facility at the now-defunct Oakwood Lake Resort in Manteca. I was geared up for the game with a mask and helmet but within a few minutes of the start of a session, I was shot right between the eyes even though the paintballers were given the instruction “don’t shoot the photographer.” I think it was then it was cemented in my mind that conflict photography was not meant for me.

More recently, I covered the Balloons Over Bullets event in south Stockton. The idea was to give kids an fun activity, in this case a large water balloon fight, to help keep them away from violence. When the battle began mass chaos ensued with screaming, giggling kids running every which way. I was nailed three times, twice with water balloons thrown by unseen assailants and a third by a little girl who snuck up behind me and poured a bottle of water on me.

I believe that bringing images of war and conflict from far-flung places to us here at home is of great importance. If we’re to send in military aid or troops to a foreign land, then we should know why we’re doing it. In the tradition going all the way back to the legendary Robert Capa during WWII, the men and women who do this valuable and dangerous work bring back incredible images that show the world all while under fire. I’m just glad that they’ve chosen that line of photography because it means that I don’t have to.

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