Katie Persons,

  George Washington University
Spring 2007

In my 6 months at John Harrington Photography, I learned and experienced far more than I ever expected. I came into my internship as a senior in a conceptual fine art program. I didn’t know anything about photography as a profession, and wanted to learn. When you start an internship at JHP, you get sucked into the whirlwind of the business immediately. You are given responsibilities from your first day, and your responsibilities quickly increase. John works harder and loves his job more than anyone I know. He has high expectations for people who work for him. Their education seems to always be in the back of his mind. He regularly puts them into situations a beyond their comfort zone, knowing that sink or swim, they’ll learn something. A major responsibility of the interns is to be “forward thinking,” thinking ahead of the current situation to anticipate what you need to do to prepare. (Tip: Get the man a Diet Coke. I kid, I kid.) John is quick-minded and moves fast, so its hard to stay two steps ahead of him. However, it’s a great exercise and skill to learn. John is always looking out for his people, and he creates a lot of opportunities for them. He brings you on an amazing variety of shoots (Tip: Even if you have to dress up, wear comfortable shoes!) If he’s going to a course or seminar, he’ll likely bring you and pay your way. He’ll keep you abreast of press releases so you can photograph events in the area to build your portfolio. He’ll sit in the office with you for hours after it closes to help you build your website. John’s levels of knowledge about and experience in this field are very high. (There were several times that I was in the office and heard another respected photographer call John for advice on topics from copyright infringement to computer problems. I’m grateful to have such a great resource.) Our knowledge and experience coming into the program are so low that an unfortunate and inevitable side effect is that John offers a lot of valuable information that we don’t pick up on. I just tried to pick up what I could. John always asks the interns if they have any questions about what’s going on, and I found it valuable to rack my brain for some even if I didn’t have any immediately. I expect that I’ll keep learning from my experience at JHP far beyond the length of my internship. As I learn more, I expect pieces of my experience to come back to me like a light bulb turning on. This internship was a crash course on the photography industry. However, the old adage rings true…the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know! That leads to one of the biggest lessons of my internship, which John will tell you time and again, “Know what you don’t know.”

Washington DC photographer John Harrington: Katie Persons in Washington, DC.

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Most Enjoyed:

“I sat in an audience of 40 people and watched Smashing Pumpkins perform an XM Artist Confidential on the day of the release of their first album in ten years. It’s up there in the best musical experiences of my life. John brought us to the NPPA Northern Short Course, where I loved going to photography seminars for two days straight. Although it was scary, I’m so grateful for the opportunities John created for me to photograph the President. I loved assisting at the Democratic Presidential Debate at Howard, seeing all the big 2008 contenders live on stage. I also enjoyed the camaraderie of the office and getting to know other interns, past and present.”

Least Enjoyed:

“It was hard to hear criticisms from John about how I talked, dressed, and some other things, even though it was meant to be constructive and for the purpose of helping me become more professional. The chaos of the office can feel overwhelming. The frenzied pace is stressful. When I made mistakes it was painfully embarrassing to look irresponsible or incompetent.”

What I Learned:

“Where do I start? I learned about the process and importance of archiving images, which in some cases involves scanning slides, and always involves metadata and keywording. I learned how to use programs that are assets to know in this field, such as PhotoMechanic, Camera Raw, Lightroom, Image Ingester, and FileMaker Pro. I also improved my knowledge of Photoshop, Bridge, and Dreamweaver. Because of my experience with these programs at JHP, I am knowledgeable enough and skilled enough now to have moved onto other jobs where I use them. I learned a ton about editing and retouching photographs. I learned that I really need to push myself to get out and shoot more if I’m ever going to be a photographer in my own right. I learned that though its tempting to buy cheaper equipment, sometimes you get what you pay for with photographic equipment. Having higher quality lenses, a variety of lenses, a nicer camera, a variety of lights, and other equipment, can help you adapt to various environments and situations, and to the various needs of clients. Also, having backups can keep a malfunction from becoming a disaster. I’ve learned that its valuable to participate in photographic professional organizations. Every time I went to meetings for these organizations, I learned something, opened my mind to a new idea, and met people in the field. I learned that most people want to pay as little as possible for photography, and if you don’t stick up for yourself, nobody will do it for you. Its important to set standards for pricing and stick to them. If you don’t, you hurt not only yourself but the industry, too. I’ve learned that its valuable to have friends in your field who you can talk with and learn with. At the same time, the only person accountable for myself is me. I learned some character-building lessons that gave me more confidence in who I am and what’s important to me. I also learned more about my own strengths and weaknesses.”

Washington DC photographer: Portrait and Editorial Photography in Washington DC

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