Friday, November 1, 2013

Neal Santos: "I Really Want to Celebrate the City."

Neal Santos was a sophomore in college when he realized he wanted to become a photojournalist. He was traveling in the Philippines, shooting pictures and meeting people.

"I realized the camera could be an excuse to dive into so many different worlds," he said in class yesterday.

He returned to Temple and began interning - almost non-stop - until he graduated in 2008. He interned at the Philadelphia Daily News, the Metro, Inquirer, Good Housekeeping and OUT magazine.

During his first internship, Daily News photographer David Maialetti saw Neal hanging out in the office and said to him, "What the hell are you doing inside? You're not going to make any images in the office."

So Neal hit the streets and started shooting.

"I got to know the city very well by being an intern at the Daily News," he said. "It was daunting at first but I grew to love being able to drive around and talk to people."

The Jersey City native fell in love with Philly, so he stayed after completing his studies. About six months after graduating, he found a job working as a web editor and photographer for Philadelphia City Paper. He's now the staff photographer and he freelances for numerous other publications, mostly covering the city and region.

"I really want to celebrate the city," Neal said. "I like being able to show Philly in a positive and gritty way."

Here are a few other things he said that stood out to me:

• When he shoots pictures, he approaches people and let's them know what he's doing. He asks permission and then shoots a lot, until the people reach a comfort level with him being there. "The key is not being a giant douchebag," Neal said.
• He photographs a wide variety of people, and he doesn't always like all of them. "I think of the end game," he said. "I need to tell this person's story. I need to be fair. I need to be professional."

• He doesn't write much but he does have to provide caption information - names, locations, time, etc. He does the work of a reporter but his primary task is the visual side.

• His classmates and former Temple News colleagues are now working journalists, many doing great stuff in Philly. "I can tell Holly (Otterbein), 'I remember when you were writing a sex column for the Temple News before you were covering politics for WHYY,'" he said with a laugh.

• Different internships provided different experiences. For instance, at the magazines, he learned studio lighting and office management skills. Even bad internships have value, he said, as you discover if you want to compromise on your goals.

• He spends a lot of time on Instagram searching for inspiration.

• As a freelancer, he is a business person, artist, photographer and journalist, all at once. He rarely turns down assignments ("I need to provide for all my animals," said Neal, who lives on a farm in West Philly).

• He has no grand aspirations. "I don't want to be the best," he said. "I just want to be a good photographer."

What stood out for you?

33 comments:

Albert Hong said...

He was an all-around cool guy. I'm glad we get to see Temple graduates like him ending up to do great things in the industry. The biggest thing for me was seeing how much he loves what he does. Just like I've heard, "journalism is the greatest job in the entire world" :)

It's really beginning to hit me now, how important it is to get an internship. His presentation was really enlightening...and a bit nerve-wracking. I gotta get to work!

ttrusky said...

Seeing journalists such as Neal Santos, makes me proud to be at Temple University. Especially after hearing the Temple alumni speak at the reunion panel just the other week, a lot of successful journalists give credit to Temple for making them so well rounded. Santos, much like other journalists, stress the importance of getting involved outside of the classroom. It is so important to find internships and gain experience. Being in Philadelphia gives us opportunities that other students at different Universities do not have.

Julianne Johnson said...

I thought Neal was really great! I liked seeing someone who was once in my shoes, and undoubtedly the shoes of a lot of journalism majors, a little timid and unsure at first. But he found his way and it was encouraging to see someone have a job and not have it feel like a job, especially in the tough journalism job market. You could hear the passion he has in his voice and you could see it in his pictures. He was really inspiring.

Chris Abruzzo said...

I really enjoyed Neal's presentation. What really stuck with me was how he got started. He got involved right away and had many internships. Although some experiences were different than others I like how he said he could take a little bit from each internship and learn from it. It sounds like he really enjoys what he does and that's what I hope I can have when I get a job. He does great work too. We need to take advantage of being in one of the country's largest media markets.

Maggie Andresen said...

It was so refreshing to have a photographer talking so humbly about his aspirations. Obviously Neil loves what he does, but his passions came out the most when he spoke of his life with his partner on his farm. While listening about the importance of internships was informative, I preferred him talking about his photo essays and personal photography.

Greg Frank said...

The biggest thing that stood out for me was his passion for photojournalism. He had a lot of photos for everything he covered which showed he really cared about capturing different aspects of the city. He was very humble in telling his story and how he got to where he is. It was nice to have someone speak in such a way about his success and his desire to pour his emotion for the city of Philadelphia out through photojournalism.

Ta'lor Walker said...

I really enjoyed his presentation. Not only was his presentation informative, he was inspiring as well. What really stood out to me was that he could be a journalist, photographer, and artist all at once, now I am considering doing same thing. I never considered photojournalism before last Thursday, now I would love to learn more about it. Neal also made me realize how important internships are in this field and that they can take you very far.

Jeanie Davey said...

It was such a pleasure to experience Neal Santos' as a student in the same department as he is! I could hear his passion and love for photojournalism in his voice and feel his longing for storytelling in his photos. It is so refreshing to hear someone say how much they love their city and are willing to capture any moment given to them. I may not be a photojournalist major, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in capturing moments of everyday life! Anyone can pick up a camera and take a picture, but it is the person who wants to take it to a new level and capture a person and their story that makes a true photojournalist.

Steven Bohnel said...

What stood out to me what how accomplished the guy was. It speaks through his work, all those pictures are just good shots. I especially liked the pool game shots, because that gallery did a really good job of telling an obscure story.
You have to respect a work ethic like the one Neil has. No matter what aspect of journalism we may be trying to break into, hard work is a must. Neil showed that through all of his impressive work, and it's easy to see why he has been so successful up to this point.

Madeleine Murphy said...

As an urban garden enthusiast, I thought Neal Santos' farm photos were super neat! I was also impressed by his ability to take such candid photos. Often people act unnaturally when they know they are being photographed, and this can affect the quality of the photos. However, all of the subjects in Neal's photos seem to be completely comfortable with their surroundings. I believe this feeling of authenticity is essential to anyone who is trying to tell a story through photographs.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe that Neal Santos is a good photojournalist because his pictures capture real life people. His pictures show the everyday person that we can relate to, instead of people we cant. I loved his pictures i thought that they were nice, clear, and easy to see. As i continue my years here at Temple, i hope that i can make a difference in the field of journalism as Neal Santos did. While at Temple he got internships and continued to work for the daily news and the Philadelphia City paper. And i hope that i will be given those opportunities as well in broadcast journalism. I am so appreciative that Mr. Miller invited him to come and speak to us because it was much needed.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe that Neal Santos is a good photojournalist because his pictures capture real life people. His pictures show the everyday person that we can relate to, instead of people we cant. I loved his pictures i thought that they were nice, clear, and easy to see. As i continue my years here at Temple, i hope that i can make a difference in the field of journalism as Neal Santos did. While at Temple he got internships and continued to work for the daily news and the Philadelphia City paper. And i hope that i will be given those opportunities as well in broadcast journalism. I am so appreciative that Mr. Miller invited him to come and speak to us because it was much needed.

Sonji Milburn
Journalism & Society
Miller
Temple Unkversity

Reyn Sugai said...

It was awesome to have Neal come in and talk about his work and experiences he had at Temple. I was impressed at his creativity and the vision he has as photojournalist. After seeing his work, it sparked my interest to explore photojournalism. It takes just going out there and getting experience that will ultimately help you find your niche like Neal did. I will be sure to get on interning as much as I can to get my name out there. It was really cool to see a Temple alum doing so well, and giving us knowledge that he learned along the way.

-Reyn Sugai

Phylandra McFaddin said...

I really enjoyed Neal Santos speaking. I want to pursue a photojournalism career so I was really glad I was able to hear his experiences. I loved that he was very passionate about his job and you could tell through his pictures. I loved how he didn't do any drastic editing to them. His pictures of food and his animals were very great, especially the flapping chickens! I loved how he was very passionate about always trying to capture a story behind every image and I think that is what makes him a great photographer.

Mark McCormick said...

I think Neal stood out to us when he spoke on Thursday, because he has proven that you can get a job with a hard career to get one in if you make connections and serve as an intern at various places. Photojournalism is a hard career to make a living off of, but Neal is proving that it may be hard, but it's fun to do something that you love. What stood out to me was his emphasis on getting involved with the Temple News and getting as many interns as possible. Getting our names out there is the best we can do to get our work known just like Neal did.

Anonymous said...

What stood out the most for me was the fact that he still doesn't know for sure what he really wants to do with his photography but he believes not knowing is a good thing at the same time. I like how he made being unsure not sound so bad.

-Artensa Johnson

Pat Krall said...

I just really liked his photography and what he is trying to do. Representing the love he has for the city through his images, and he is doing it cause he truly believes in it, not to be the best, which is a good quality to have. He is a nice all around person.

Annie Merrill said...

What really stood out for me was how he really went out to pursue what he loves instead of waiting for someone to hand him opportunities. As someone who learns best from hands-on experience, I think that's a really valuable skill to have and it was really inspiring to see how much he was able to accomplish just by putting himself out there.

Sarah Sweigart said...

After listening to Neal's speech, what caught my attention the most was his decision to remain in Philadelphia even after he graduated. From the perspective of a freshman, I crave new places and new people, however Neal looked at it differently. He used the city to his advantage, recognizing the opportunity right in his backyard, in turn fuel his passion for photography. This fact reminded me of Russel Cronwell's "Acres of Diamonds" speech, and the quote, "And many of us are right by the tree that has a fortune for us, and we own it, possess it, do what we will with it, but we do not learn its value because we do not see the human need, and in these discoveries and inventions that is one of the most romantic things of life." From this, Neal and his dream of being a photojournalist for the city he loves is the perfect representation of greatness and value. He took what he had and what he was interested in a put it to good use. His photographs are simple yet unique and most importantly fulfill a purpose. The city of Philadelphia needs people to document every day events, adding life to its citizens and places and Neal Santos does just that.

Timi Jones said...

Neal Santos was really a pleasure. He seems to be a really humble person who really enjoys his work. What stood out most though was obviously his pictures. They each told their own story. One of my favorites was the drag queens because I recognized a couple of them from going to drag shows in the city. Also his block party collection was awesome because growing up in Philly, I can say he really captured what block parties are all about. And to be honest, block parties aren't what they used to be but through his pictures, I felt a little nostalgic because they reminded me of how block parties were when they were live, full of music, and kids everywhere!

Jenna Herman said...

I really enjoyed listening to Neal speak about his passion for photography and storytelling. I was so impressed with the different genres he conquers, and how his pictures tell stories. I also enjoyed listening to Neal speak about his path as a journalist student at Temple University. It was evident that his experience as an intern helped him pave a career path.

Sarah DeSantis said...

Having Neal in class was an awesome opportunity. He gave me the inspiration to strive for my goals, and to have fun along the way. What a cool guy!

Paige Gross said...

Listening to Neal made it very clear that to get what you want, you have to go out and make it happen for yourself. Neal seemed to have created a brand for himself, a whole new type of journalist, and you could tell he really loves what he does.

Ashlee Mericle said...

Neal had some really great work that he brought into show the class. Bu listening to him in class, I could tell that he really enjoys and loves what he does. His photos were fantastic. I thought it was so cool how he captures "life" in his photos. He really gets to know people and the different aspects of life by capturing these particular moments. I was able to see how much Neal loves being a photojournalist and how he was able to make a living out of it. It really inspires me, as a senior, to do something that I love. I could graduate next semester and get a job but if I do not love what I'm doing, I'm not going to be happy. Neal showed me by doing what you love, you can be happy and everything else can fall into place.

Ashley Kane said...

What stood out to me about Neal was his genuine love and passion for what he does. He didn't look at his job as a "have to" but a "get to." This should always be a journalist's perspective. Diving into various themes and lives is a privilege.

Gabi Vinogradov said...

Neal Santos gave a really awesome lecture/presentation on photojournalism. I personally am an Instagram freak; I take pictures of everything. That said, I think photojournalism would be such a cool job. I'd get to go around taking photos of everything and also writing about it. I personally loved when Neal was showing the pictures he took of the block parties in South Philadelphia because I went to high school there and recognized a lot of the streets, and even two people in one of the photos. It's so surreal seeing the little parts of the city that get ignored in the grand scheme of things in magazines or online because when you think of Philadelphia in the media's eyes, you think of Rocky, cheesesteaks, and the Liberty Bell; not block parties in South Philly and little farms in North. There are so many tiny nooks and crannies of the city and even after living here for going on ten years, there's so much I haven't seen or even heard of. Neal definitely opened my eyes to some of those things and I fully intend to go investigate and photograph some of it for myself.

Casey Yoos said...

Neal Santos had a great presentation. I enjoy taking photos and I love to see what people can capture behind a camera lens. I also love hearing from guest speakers who are from Temple. I really feel that it is important for me to get involved with school and interning. Transferring here has been an interesting transition and I have been slightly reluctant to get involved and I'm mad at myself for that. Neal inspired me to get to work before it's to late.

Paige Calter said...

I thought that Neal's presentation was interesting and informative! His presentation was inspiring and it was great to see just how much he really loves his job. He also stressed how important internships are, and this opened my eyes to just how vital it is to have experience before you leave school. The fact that Neal's a Temple alum, made it all the more interesting knowing that he has been through the exact same thing we have. Neal genuinely seemed to love what he did, and I hope that I can say the same when I graduate and get a job.

Andrew Vanech said...

I was glad to see that Neil Santos got to where he wanted to be. To be a photo journalists gives you the advantage of letting other people see what you see. For instances, Neil got the pleasure of going to the Philippines and taking photos there. He reached his goal, hopefully I will reach mine.

bspause said...

I enjoyed Neil's presentation, and his work really is awesome. After looking around on his website and twitter, it became evident that he has a great eye for photography and can make powerful statements with his work.

It stood out to me that he was able to do so many internships - makes me feel like I can do it too! That's the plan of course, but its good to know that there was someone else in the shoes I'm shopping for.

Chengyang Yu said...

What really stood out to me was that one can really do what he love!!! It was so inspiring!!! I also love taking photos!!!Maybe my hobby can become my career on day just like Neal!!!

Suchi Parikh said...

Knowing that there are journalists like Neil Santos out there makes me proud to pursue this as a career. He's just so cool and collected. He just does what he loves to do and he's good at it as well. It gives me motivation that he, who was a normal temple university student got as far as he did, then so can I!

Mariama Mansaray said...

it was really interesting having Nick talk to us about his work. i really enjoyed listening to him talk about the ways he gets his stories. what stood out to me most was how passionate he was about his work. you could really see that he was into what he was doing. at some point it made me think about becoming a photo journalist,but there's still word out on that.