Hey everyone – RC here. If you have spent any time on this blog or at KelbyOne, you have more often than not come across of Joe McNally.  With over 30 years in the business, he is one of the most sought after photographers out there working today.  He’s shot for Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, LIFE and National Geographic – winning a dizzying amount of awards in over 60 countries.

But the best honor for him yet happens this October 3 – November 23 2014 at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He will have his first solo show!  I figured it would be neat to share why Joe’s one of my photographic idols – and why I cannot wait to make the trek to New Mexico for opening day. (Click on this link for more details on this)

The Tenacity of Being a Photographer

(photo credit - Christopher Morris - VII Agency)

I’ve been a fan of Joe’s work for a long time – long considering him one of my photographic idols. His ability to work with flash has always been second to his tenacity for wanting to get an interesting shot. Here he’s working on a rooftop in Russia photographing a ballerina. Why? Because that’s where the picture was.

I’ve always thought of Joe as one part Ernest Hemingway, one part Hannibal Smith from The A-Team.  When he has an idea – it would seem that there is not much that will get in the way of him getting it. Just yesterday, I saw a location here in St. Lucia (we’re teaching a workshop out here) and thought to myself “Man, this one cave/vine area would be a great location to make a picture. But man, that looks like a bit of a climb. I wonder how dangerous that climb is….”

Telling Joe about the location? “Yeah, I made this picture up there a couple of years ago when I was…”

The next time I get there, you’ll be sure that I won’t hesitate climbing to that location to make a shot. Because that’s where the picture is.

The Storyteller in the Photographer

The quest to tell a story has brought him around the world. This is a picture of a girl in Mumbai in 1999.

This picture was a part of a series he did called “The Panorama of War.” That series won him the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Journalistic Impact. Eisenstadt. A giant in the photographic world.

I often look back at my own work and think about how much excess I throw into a picture to try to make a point. To try to help the caption that I have under the picture. I want the effects that I place in the file to help move the reader to the conclusion I want them to see.

I’ll often look back at pictures like this and get inspired to find a story. Forget about the effects and the software. Just walk around and find one picture that doesn’t need a single caption. I’m completely OK with the fact that I am not there yet. This isn’t a race. I just want to make sure that I am on the right track. In this – I see Joe as a beacon.

The Dreamer in the Photographer

Imagine going into a shoot with Michelle Pfeifer. Most people would be freaking out about having to make a picture with an actress of that stature.

Joe’s response? Oh lets make a custom jewelry case, and make a picture with the Hope Diamond.

As a photographer you don’t really need an actress or the Hope Diamond. But – how many pictures have you had in your own head that you’ve never really given yourself permission to create?  How many ideas stay stuck in your head – a victim of “Oh that will never work.”  I think that one of the biggest challenges that one can have as a photographer is to know that sometimes you have to shift from capturing whats in front of you to realizing a concept. I am horrible at that. I relegate my creative experience to making something cool of a situation in front of me. I get extremely timid, however, telling people “Oh… I have this idea in my head… Let me tell you what it is.”  In that, I feel like I don’t move myself along. I should. But I don’t. But looking at Joe’s work makes me want to. In that, he’s my inspiration.

The Monroe Gallery

When it comes to historically important pictures in Photojournalism – you cannot beat The Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe. The gallery features the work of photographers like Alfred Eisenstadt, Margaret Bourke White, Carl Mydans, Arnold Newman, Neil Leifer and many others.

Walking into this place feels like you’re walking into a hallowed hall.  As a photographer, I think it’s so important for you to look back into these founts for inspiration and bearing.   To be surrounded by the work of someone we all admire, is a big call for celebration – and we are all so happy for him because of it.

Hopefully I will see you guys there on opening day!!

(Big thanks to Joe for letting me use your pictures)

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9 Comments

  1. Congrats, Joe! Can’t believe it’s his first solo show! Wish I could trek the 8 hours :-)

  2. With all the awards and glitter that Joe has accomplished he is still such a great guy. He has always been kind to answer questions I have had and goes out of his way to be a friend and speak to me personally when I run into him, this is what makes Joe the man he is. He rightfully deserves all he has accomplished and I’m proud to call him a friend! He is one of the best teachers around too!

  3. Excellent news! I’ll definitely be there.

  4. I had the pleasure of seeing the Monroe Gallery earlier this summer and was moved to tears with the gravity and caliber of the work represented there. The picture that drew me in was Joe McNallys shot of the mens water polo team, front and center in the window. They host some of the most amazing work I’ve seen and (Capa, Soiling of Old Glory, etc.) and couldn’t be more excited (and dissapointed that I can’t make it) that Joe McNally will have a show there.

  5. when is the opening day reception? the 3rd?

  6. My idol too RC!! You should give yourself more credit though, you produce some awesome work as well!!

  7. During my first ever visit to the Photoshop World Convention and Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month, I had the opportunity to watch Joe in action demonstrating a three flash setup to a live audience. His work was absolutely creative and amazing. Just totally inspiring!

    At the end of the seminar, I had the opportunity to talk with him one-on-one about the Nikon CLS flash system, and how the pre-flash system works. He cleared up in 2 minutes… what mounds of books could not answer. A real pro – very giving of his time and knowledge.

    How I wish I could take in the vernissage and opening at the gallery, however time, distance and commitments do not permit.

    So let me just say have a great opening Joe, et une gros merci – a BIG thank you! for your time in Las Vegas.

    Salût! Cheers!
    Frederic in Montréal

  8. I’m thinking about driving out for the opening. There is a VW bus show that same weekend, and the balloon fiesta, so with three reasons to go that way it seems like a good plan. Just need to figure out how to make it happen.

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