Albert Einstein famously said, “in order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd. All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence. And then success is sure. Success is a science. If you have the conditions, you get the results,” Confidence and ignorance. And I have so many people that come up to me and tell me, you’ve done so many cool things in your life, like how did that happen? And I really chalk it up to having confidence and ignorance. I think three quarters of the great things, the best stories of my life would never have happened if I had more information about it beforehand. And once I knew what I wanted to do, I had confidence to go and do it. So bringing those together, it leads to results, but it also leads to some crazy stories. I’m going to tell you one today.
I talk often about how struggle and challenges lead to the things that we need to learn to get better. I truly learn more during those times that I do during what are considered the successful times. So you’ll notice that I will constantly go back to the beginnings of different things that I’ve done for the lessons that I’ve learned. And this is no different, a period of my life where so many of these stories and lessons come from for those years of my photography career. It was starting in the mid 90’s I finally landed a breakthrough gig. Now it was unpaid and it was an internship. So my nickname at this new job was the Vintern and the job, if you want to call it that, because I wasn’t being paid. But it was for Bruce Bennett Studios, which I became a researcher for their company. And their company was the photographers for the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers.
So for somebody wanting to become a sports photographer, it was the dream gig, even an unpaid one. So when Brian Winkler, who’s my boss, approved me for the internship, I was so excited that I needed to get started. So before he even started the job I saw on the schedule at the Philadelphia Flyers were playing a home game that Friday night. And I was so ambitious and excited that I drove from Long Island to Philadelphia to go photograph the game. Now keep in mind, I wasn’t credentialed to photograph this game, nobody but Brian even knew who I was and I spent two and a half hours, gas and tolls to get to Philadelphia to request a press pass and shoot the game. And as I say it out loud, knowing what I know now, it’s total ignorance and a bit of confidence. So the Flyers had a desk set up outside the arena for the press passes.
And I walked up and I said, I’m here to shoot the game for Bruce Bennett Studios. And she asked me my name and then she told me, well you guys already have a photographer here. And I was like, Oh, um, okay, well I’m here anyway, I like to shoot the game. And she proceeded to write out a press pass for me, which just so you know, we’ll never happen now. So she gives me the press pass and I go into the arena and I walked down to ice level. I grab a folding chair, I set up to start shooting the game. It really is that easy. So my career is about to start. I start looking around, I start taking it all in and then low and behold right next to, because of another photographer, a young guy, blonde hair, and he pulls up a seat next to me and nods at me and he gets his camera’s ready and he starts getting ready to shoot and I’m kind of sneakily trying to see what his press pass says so I know who it is.
And I always knew I wanted to meet as many photographers as I could. And I look at his press pass when he’s looking away and I noticed it says Jim McIsaac Bruce Bennett Studios. And it was at that moment that I was like, Oh no. So when he wasn’t looking, I turned my press pass around, I put my baseball cap on a little bit lower so we couldn’t really see my face as much because I couldn’t let him see that. I was also photographing for Bruce Bennett Studios because he’d be like, what are you doing here and who are you? And I also knew I’m probably going to be seeing him in the office. So I proceeded to shoot two periods of the game. I was pretty nervous. I was going to get found out and get in trouble. So after the second period I left and I drove home back to New York.
I just wanted to avoid trouble and I showed up for work that Monday morning and they introduced me to everybody and they showed me where to go and they give me my seat by the light box. I started editing slides for the different magazines and Brian came in around 9:30, said hello to me and I was like, wow, I think I got away with it. I won’t do that again. But I think I got away with it at the same time. Jim came in and sat right across from me and he looked at me and he nodded. He kind of smiled because he knew it was me, but he didn’t say anything. So everything’s lining up. I learned a major lesson of what to do and what not to do. And then around 10:30 or 11 o’clock, Bruce Bennett, the owner, comes in along with John Giamundo, who’s the lead photographer, and they had shot the Rangers game the night before at Madison Square Garden.
So they came in. Later that day, John walks in and he just looks at me as he’s coming through the door and there was music playing, but otherwise it seemed silent. And he said to me, “Are you the mysterious intern that showed up in Philly Friday night to photograph the game?” And I looked at Jim, I hadn’t even spoken a word to yet, and he’s just shaking his head with his head down, and I’m not sure what excuse I gave, but I said something and John just laughed, like a disappointing laugh, shook his head, walked in the other room, and Bruce made a joke like, “Hey man, it’s your world. It’s your business.” Then he walked by me and he said, “don’t ever do it again.” I said, “You got it.” He laughed and I laughed and I lived to tell about it. And to this day, they’re all still friends of mine. And John’s been the lead photographer for WWE traveling the world, photographing professional wrestling for the last 18 years. And whenever we’re in a city together, I’ll come by, hang out backstage. We tell old stories, but I think he might’ve forgotten that one. So if he listens to this, we’ll have another story to tell. But that was my unofficial first hockey game that I ever shot. And all it took was a little confidence and a little ignorance. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.