Here is the transcription to Episode 10- Do You Need An Audit?
Well, we are not anywhere near April and I’m not going to worry you with IRS audits on this one, but we’re going to talk about audits and why you need more audits- and not the audits that you think. This is about you auditing more situations in your life so you can learn about things that you haven’t figured out yet. And I want to ask you if you think you’re auditing enough, and I’m going to give you an example of an audit in my life that really changed my life around, but it was something that I needed to take charge even though there was no academic or short term benefit to it. But it was some that felt right. It was one that I knew I needed to take the chance on. And when I was a student back at Ohio University, I went to school for visual communication in journalism and I was an Undergrad even though I was a 26 year old undergrad!
So I was in a lot of the basic photography classes even though I had been a pro photographer for about three years at that point. So I was a little bit frustrated because I want to be in the tougher classes. I wanted them to be with the Grad students. I wanted to be with the ones that were doing the harder work that were getting pushed more so I noticed that the Grad students had a class called magazine photography and in this class, for one semester they were going to lay out a story. They were going to photograph a story for a magazine and they were, then they were going to lay out the story in magazine forms of, by the time it was done, they were going to have a 24 page magazine New York Times style. The way it used to be was 24 pages.
It was going to be a full start to finish photo story that you wrote and shot. It was just a beautiful portfolio piece that was for each of these Grad students. It was going to lead to a job offer in one of the newspapers and magazines that we want to work for. That’s how good this thing was. So I went to Terry Eiler who is the professor of the class, and I asked if I could audit the class. I wasn’t looking for credit, I wasn’t looking for anything academically from it. I just wanted to sit in and listen and he said I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t something they were allowed to do, so I was really bummed out. I was like, oh, I have to wait at least another semester or another year maybe to be able to do this. But when I left the classroom, I went to my left and then I went to the right.
I noticed that the class started, but the door was still open, so I had my notepad, I had my backpack, I had a pad and I had a pen. So I just sat down outside the classroom and I just listened to about 20 minutes of the class as they started going into it, I just started taking notes. I started noticing the people who were talking, I wrote down their names. I wrote down what their projects where I started writing down what the suggestions were and the lessons. So I was so intrigued by this that I came back the next class and I had that time frame open every day that they had class I was open. So instead of going and grabbing a Burrito or a coffee, I went to the Viscom building and I sat down and I audited the class. Listening week after week class after class, I set out there and I started writing down the different ideas.
I started writing down the suggestions they were making. I was writing down the criticisms, I was writing down the advice and I started thinking about what my magazine project would be because I had no idea. And then all of a sudden I came up with the idea, I’m going to be home in New York from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. I had the whole time to do whatever I want do. So I came up with the idea of, while I was listening to this, I wanted to do a story about New York City. I wanted to do something that was different about New York. While I was back and I thought about transportation. I thought about the subway because the New York City subway is iconic, so I said, okay, I’m going to do a picture story about the F train in New York City because I took the F train all the time when I worked in New York, when I worked for the Associated Press and I lived in Queens, I would take the F train into the Rockefeller Center where I worked for the Associated Press, so I was like, that’s one of the most diverse subway lines you can imagine.
It goes to the really poor ends of Queens, and then goes through Manhattan and all the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and then through, you know, Rockefeller Center area and then into Wall Street where there’s all this money and the bulls and the bears and then into Brooklyn, which had a ton of seediness. It’s not the Brooklyn that it is now and then into Coney Island, which was just really diverse. A lot of different ethnicities, a lot of different nationalities, a lot of different- it was just a total melting pot of a subway. I said, that’s going to be the story that I’m going to work on. So through the entire semester, the entire fall semester of sitting there, not only that, I came up with the idea, I got all the lessons, I got all the feedback that they were given as they were going through their magazine class.
And then I went back without anybody knowing it. And then Thanksgiving break came. I went back to New York. I spent 30 days on the F train. I spent the entire day, eight hours a day on the subway, and it got really tiring being on this train all day long. But I really got to get a feel the essence of what the F train was all about 30 days, eight hours a day. I can’t even tell you how many rolls of film I shot, but I knew it was something special. I got a guy getting busted for, for selling drugs at the police. Chased him down that I got to hang out with the police. I got guys playing violin on the subway. People, um, you know, arguments, fights, lovers, this guy carrying a thing of cotton candy to Madison Square Garden that took up four seats and you can’t even see the guy’s head, um, the homeless, like shaving on the platform, everything you can imagine was going on there.
So I photograph this the entire time. So I came back to school in the winter session and I went to Terry’s office and I had told them what I had done because he knew nothing about it. And at that point I think maybe I proved myself with my dedication. He didn’t even know I was sitting outside of his classroom. And then I showed him the film that was all developed and edited and he said, okay, “I’m taking you on here.” He goes, “I am going to personally help you edit your magazine and have it done.” So I got without ever paying for a class or ever joining the class, I got a one on one mentorship for the magazine class. So the entire semester he worked with me and laid out this magazine, which he was the expert of. We put it into this incredible magazine.
And what happened from there was pretty remarkable. We submitted that to the William Randolph Hearst Foundation for the national championship of student photographers, and it was one of the top awards to where I was selected as one of the top six photographers in the country. The reward, you get the fly to San Francisco for a two day shoot off where you competed against the five other photographers around the nation that were the top of the game, and the winner of that would be the William Randolph Hearst national grand champion. And not only that, but you win money from it too. So we go to San Francisco, we do the shoot off. It’s a couple of days of shooting. It’s very intimidating. You’re working against some of the best photojournalists in the country and then, they take you on a yacht for cruise around San Francisco Bay over by Alcatraz, and they announced the winners.
We’re on this cruise all dressed up, which I normally wasn’t in this fancy setting. And I hear my name called for best picture story. So I go up and I win the award. That’s the story about the F train- wins the best picture story and it’s first place and it’s $1,000 I’m like that’s pretty sweet. And all the recognition. And then they go on and they announce who the photographer of the year was and they go through it and there’s six photographers. So the third place winners selected, which was Michael Weimer, who we became good friends and I was like, okay, either I didn’t win at all or I win second or I win first. And the second place winner was announced who was Chris Hamilton, who is extremely talented, extremely talented photographer from Western Kentucky. So he went second place. So at that point you’re thinking it’s either all or nothing. I’m not going to win any of it, which is still huge.
I still get to be there, I’m not going to win any of it or I’m going to be first prize. And then they announced the first place winner, which is not only the winner of the championship, but also when $5,000 and when they say the name and they said from Ohio University, and they say my first name, because Rob Ostermeier was a classmate of mine, he was there as well. So it could have been me or Rob. So they said, Ohio University. And they said Vincent. And all of a sudden I went blank. I’m like, I cannot believe this. I just won first prize for all of this. And that came with not only the accolades of the award, but $5,000 so I go back to, oh you, I mean it’s just absolutely incredible moment.
I go back to Ohio, everything’s fantastic. Elizabeth and I get jobs in Evansville from there, you know, when the money, which turned out to be the money that went on the down payment or our first house. And what I learned from that was, you know, the awards are great and the accolades is wonderful. But what I learned from that is none of that would’ve happened without the audit. None of that would have happened if I just did things normal. If I just did what was expected, I needed to sit outside that class. There were so many lessons that I learned from sitting outside that class that I can tell you right now that picture story would not have been as good. I might not have ever even done the picture story if it wasn’t for sitting outside of that class and then auditing that class and just paying attention to what all these people were doing that I wasn’t doing yet catapulted me and it allowed me to get such a headstart.
So when I went into that story, when I went into shooting in New York City for a month, I was totally prepared. They had me ready and I want to tell the story because I want to know what you should be auditing right now. I want to know what are the things that you need to learn that you really need to put yourself into and stop pretending that you already know what you need to know or stop being afraid of taking the chance. Because I can tell you a lot of people thought I was crazy for taking up that time to do that, but the ripple effect from the moment I sat outside that class to what we’re doing today and all the success and all the experiences and all the stories and all the freedom that has come from that, I can say, I can point back to that moment as one of the pivotal moments that got us here and the lesson from it, even more important. So I want to know something that you’re going to audit, something you’re going to start paying attention to that’s going to get you to the next level. Thank you. As always, for taking the time to listen and I will be back with you tomorrow.