Apparently, @benhasacamera was already taken on social media. So I tried @benhasacat instead, and the name has stuck ever since.
The Short Story …
My name’s Ben Eyles, and I’ve recently swapped a decade-long career as a newspaper photographer with Fairfax for a chance to be a photography teacher at Wodonga TAFE.
I still love working with clients, though, even though the students keep me plenty busy enough. :)
If you’ve got an interesting story you’d like told uniquely and professionally, I’d love to meet and make images for you.
Ask about the discount I’ll give if you let me use your shoot to help educate my students.
Oh, Four, One, Oh, Seven, Oh, Three, Three, Six, Two.
The Long Story …
Photography, at first, was an idea I hatched for me to get away from my desk.
At 22, I’d embarked on an adventure to Tasmania to fill a journalist position at a daily newspaper, The Advocate.
Sure, I could make photos that were much better than the average reporter, but, I didn’t move there to shoot — I moved there to write.
About people. Their stories. The issues that mattered to them. Document their way of life, experience other ways and events firsthand, scribble into a notebook then pen colourful and meaningful prose infused with meaning and colour and insight.
And sometimes I got to do that. I can think of several days in Tasmania where I thought I was the luckiest writer on the planet.
But mostly I was stuck in a chair in front of a phone.
“Ben, I need a story on that festival on today, please.”
“Awesome. I’ll grab a pool car,” I’d say.
“Pool car? Why? Just get the photographer to put the organiser on the phone to you while he’s out there.”
Which got me thinking, I’ve moved all the way from the South Coast, NSW, for an adventure in journalism — why the hell should the photographer have all the fun?
So I threw myself at any sort of photography related resource I could find. Blogs, books, magazines — I inhaled them. My camera came with me everywhere. I took hundreds of pictures a day. Sometimes I even booked photo jobs when the other photographers were busy so the chief of staff would HAVE to let me go take the picture myself.
“Ah, sorry. They’re only available then,” is one of the best white lies a reporter aspiring to be a photographer can tell.
I piled the pressure on myself to deliver the shot. And, through sheer determination — I came back with the goods. (My theory: Back yourself. Shoot the nuts off it. Something’s got to work.)
And it worked. Not flawlessly, but ultimately.
The workload was killer, but I built my rep as The Reporter Who Wanted To Become A Photographer.
And when the planets aligned, and a photographer took extended leave, I convinced the editor to give me a shot as a full-time photographer.
Many hundreds of pictures later, scores of front pages, multimedia, videos and a handful of stories later, we ended up in Albury, where I did it all again for another three-and-a-half-years.
Then something changed in me. It was Mark Jesser’s fault. He was a barely-20 photography student and all he wanted to know was how to “STROBE!” — as in, use flash to enhance his images.
We stayed up way late one night shooting flash and talking shop. We kept this up for a while, and, a few months later, Mark had strobed his first front page photo of the Border Mail, using a couple of techniques I’d taught him.
He was pretty chuffed, but I was ECSTATIC.
I thought shooting the front page was the ultimate rush. I was wrong.
Helping someone ELSE get their picture on the front page was.
That’s why I’m at Wodonga TAFE. Teaching the next crop of photographers.
Best job in the world.