This story first appeared in Focal Point – One Nevada Credit Union's member magazine.
Name: John Gurzinski
ONCU Member since: 1978 (that year he got his first auto loan for a 1973 Nova SS)
What is your favorite thing about ONCU: Anytime I need help I just make a phone call, most of my needs are handled this way, it’s easy. Customer Service at the Pearl branch where I usually bank is great, and I have become quite friendly with many of the financial representatives.
As a twenty-year veteran photojournalist in Las Vegas, I specialize in Photojournalism, editorial, and stock photography of the Las Vegas area as well as entertainment, conventions, corporate, publicity and advertising. Being from a military family I have a great interest in and have covered Nellis A.F.B. from air shows to firepower demonstrations, Red Flag and other events. My work has been featured worldwide in publications such as Sports Illustrated, New York Times, U.S. News, and Time Magazine. I have covered all major boxing events ringside for Agence France Presse since 1992. My images are featured in several book projects featuring the Las Vegas are boxing.
I have a passion for all types of weather. Every spring, I travel to Tornado Alley in search of tornados, lightning and other extreme weather, I act as a Storm Spotter with Skywarn for the NOAA during my chase season. I also love the challenge of shooting wild horses and big horn sheep in the desert.
Q: Tell us about yourself and what led you to a career in photography?
I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the Air Force, and we moved often, assigned to different bases around the world. It was like having a two year vacation every move, so like any tourist, I started taking photos wherever we lived, capturing memories for my scrapbook. In high school, I took my only formal photo class. It was a darkroom class about processing and printing black & white images, and I was hooked. I started at UNLV after moving from Virginia to Nevada. I joined the student newspaper as a photographer and quickly became the Photo Editor. During this time I met local newspaper photographers and learned from them. I had the opportunity to cover assignments for them, sort of on the job training. From there I worked part-time for the Las Vegas Sun and was a stringer for (UPI) United Press International. I was hired as Photo Editor for the Henderson Home News and a year later worked for The Las Vegas News Bureau. I was there almost five years until they closed its doors. I was offered a position as a staff photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal where I worked for 18 years. Currently, I am a Freelance Photojournalist and work with wire agencies, (AFP) Agence France-Presse, (AP) Associated Press and Getty Images, covering news, sports and entertainment assignments. I also have corporate clients.
Q: How long have you been a photographer?
A photographer since I was 10, a photojournalist since 1978.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being a photojournalist is a really fun, exciting and rewarding job.
Every day assignments give me opportunities to meet and interact with new people and cover important events, it is a constant learning experience and no two days are the same. The advantages of my career allow me to work in the field, not in an office environment and the access to cover events up close.
Q: What are the Pros and Cons about the transition from film to digital?
Switching from film to digital was implemented pretty quickly at newspapers, and it allowed images to be posted to websites faster or even before an event was over. The learning curve for digital was tough because film had more latitude. If you overexposed digital you could lose detail and file sizes were very small. The only significant downside was the cost of equipment, and now we have to carry a laptop to transmit images along with our camera gear.
Q: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment or best work thus far?
My personal favorite was an in-depth story I had the privilege to photograph and interview. A group of young men who were resettled in Las Vegas who were part of thousands who fled war-torn Sudan. They were called “The Lost Boys of Sudan”. The story told itself through their eyes and experiences. Every person had scars and injuries, and they were very guarded with their trust. After two days with them in their apartment, learning and listening, they opened up and allowed me to do a series of portraits. Most had facial scars. As I shot, we talked about how the injuries were caused, and each person’s face and eyes told an emotional story as they reflected on their journey. The portraits were amazing and each image conveyed the idiom “ A picture is worth a thousand words.” The images were awarded first place in Nevada Press Association Photos of the Year – Portraiture category.
Q: What is your favorite subject matter to photograph?
There are a few. I love shooting anything weather related, particularly lightning. Wild horses and Bighorn Sheep are a favorite. It takes a lot of patience. Implosions are amazing and exciting to cover and a bit nostalgic, especially here in Las Vegas. I worked at the Riviera and Aladdin Hotels while in college and shooting these iconic properties that shaped the city as they are reduced to rubble and then documenting the building of new ones in their place, was amazing.
Q: What are the most difficult assignments to shoot and why?
The assignments that none of us want to do. When you have to interview the family of a child harmed from any type of accident or similar situations it is very difficult. In Las Vegas, we have many members of the military deployed overseas who have died in combat, Having spent a lot of time covering families that are affected are the times when things can get stressful and emotional for me as a person.
Q: Who has been your favorite client to work for over the years?
(AFP) Agence France-Presse, International News Agency. I have been privileged to be their ringside boxing photographer here in Las Vegas for over 20 years.
Q: Do you have specific photographers that have influenced you?
James Nachtwey, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White and Robert Capa.
Q: Does living in Las Vegas give you more opportunities for spectacular photos or is it more challenging to capture more unique images since it’s been photographed so many times?
It is difficult to find new angles and overviews of Las Vegas; with so many visitors using phones to capture images of the town and media coverage of events and news stories. I am always looking for new places and angles to shoot from as I travel around the city. I find that just walking around is a great way to find new views.
Q: What tips would you offer to a budding photographer?
Get up close, never use a flash unless absolutely necessary. Look for creative angles, get high or low, find a unique view different from the group of photographers that converge covering any situation. Try to be part of the background (the fly on the wall) so you can capture spontaneous reactions. Never give up. Assignments will become almost routine, so it’s up to you to see it differently. Some of my worst assignments that I thought would be mundane, ended up being the best, so keep an open mind because you never know what might happen.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? Any hobbies?
I enjoy fly-fishing and growing all kinds of veggies in my garden boxes. My favorite is Storm Chasing. Every spring I head out to the Midwest to chase weather- tornados, lightning, sunsets and reconnect with friends from around the world that have the same passion. We also act as severe storm spotters with Skywarn for the National Weather Service.
See John's photographs at www.lasvegasphotography.com.