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:
• 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?
10 months ago