PDNedu: What was your earliest photo-
industry work experience?
RC: While in college I was a staff photog-
rapher for the town daily, the Lawrence
Journal-World,in Lawrence, Kansas.
PDNedu: How did you first transition from photographer
to director of photography (DOP), and what was your most
important attribute for that role?
RC: Following graduation and Air Force service, I took a job as
chief photographer at the TopekaCapital-Journal in Kansas. That
turned into the DOP when I grew from running the small photo
staff into influencing the use of pictures. My main attribute was
not so much managing schedules, budgets and staff but rather
convincing the picture-using editors to use photographs well.
PDNedu: As DOP, how do you decide on a photographer to
assign a given story?
RC: There’s no one way. You weigh talents in certain areas, experi-
ence (or lack thereof) and finally—often the only choice—who is
available on the schedule.
PDNedu: How did Rich Clarkson and Associates (now Clarkson
Creative) start, and who were your first clients?
RC: The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) asked me
to produce a book on its basketball tournament, the Final Four.
My departure as DOP at National Geographic mystified many,
for it was perceived as the ultimate photojournalism job. But it
was all administrative and rarely touched on using photographs.
I started my company to return to editing, publishing and so on.
And to start photographing again—which started with the NCAA.
PDNedu: How did your relationship with the NCAA evolve?
RC: From that first Final Four we added the College World Series
(baseball) and track and field. Within a year, I suggested we create
NCAA Photos, which now does all 90 championships.
PDNedu: How are sports images such as the NCAA collection
cleared for commercial use?
RC: Use of a student athlete’s image while in school should fall
under the scholarship agreement (yet the O’Bannon case will test
that). For commercial use, particularly after graduation, we tell all
clients who license image rights (also in our signed agreement)
that it’s their obligation to get a release or licensing agreement
from the athlete.
Q&A with Rich Clarkson, legendary National
Geographic director of photography and
founder/director of sports photography services and workshops.
ABOVE: Patrick Ewing of Georgetown goes up for a dunk during the Final Four Men’s
Basketball Semifinal held at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington. Georgetown
defeated Kentucky 53–40 to advance to the championship game.
Click here to watch student and
instructor testimonials about Rich
Clarkson’s sports photography
Summit Workshop. For our full
interview with Clarkson, check out
this story on < www.pdnedu.com>.
PDNedu: Please tell us about your Photography at the Summit
RC: We have four annual workshops, which all entail team-teaching by top photographers, editors and educators. Each year
we add new young photographers who are significant professionals and have the disposition (and effectiveness) to be great
and sharing teachers. Attendees range from students (some on
scholarships) to emerging professionals to attorneys, dentists
and other career professionals—most of whom intended on a
photography career only to find other higher-paying careers early
on. The experience level varies widely, but most participants are
very serious about photography—and want to “move to the next
level,” as they often say.
PDNedu: How does Nikon support the workshops?
RC: Nikon has been a workshop sponsor for more than 25 years.
They are great to work with and provide useful services—like
cleaning, adjusting and repairing cameras on-site and loaning
students cameras, lenses and flash units. I’ve never known a
company that does more to support professional photographers
in all the right ways.
PDNedu: What’s the most important thing you weren’t taught
in school, but should have been?
RC: To waste no time sending the bill. The biggest companies take
the longest to pay.
PDNedu: Do you have any final tips about pursuing a photo-
graphic career and about a work/life balance?
RC: In the end, I often say, it’s not the portfolio, it’s the person. As
for maintaining a balance—make sure to always have time for
the late-afternoon martini. EDU
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