When I joined Agence France-Presse (AFP) in April 2007 as a computer technician and budding photojournalist, I asked the chief editor for names of photographers to keep an eye on. Some of the agency’s key players were a given, but she mentioned then-stringer Brendan Smialowski and stopped, as if there were nothing more to talk about. I asked why she’d name a stringer in such a crowded market as Washington, D.C., and not back her argument with an explanation. She simply replied, “Just go look at his stuff.”
A cursory Google image search of Smialowski’s work will leave you wondering. The pictures returned are simple D.C. photojournalism fodder of dreary politicos and pundits. They don’t even follow the trusty photojournalism formula of “establisher, medium, action, reaction, reverse, close-up, and closing.” I was thoroughly confused. Not until I visited AFP’s ImageForum (or Getty Images for distribution in the USA) did I get his full story.