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The perfect shot

| Thursday, February 18, 2016

An hour before the Notre Dame-Virginia football game, I’m standing outside the front gates of the stadium. The standard procedure for a photographer is to allow a security guard to check your equipment. I gave the man at the check-in gate my camera bags, waiting for him to give me the okay.

Except, it didn’t happen.

“Miss, I’m sorry, but you can’t shoot with this lens,” the guard said, pointing out my 200-400mm lens that’s about a foot long. “You see, only professionals can take photos with those types of lens. A non-working person, like yourself, must have a lens less than six inches long.”

Showing him my press pass, I told him I’m a paid photographer, a professional. The guard shook his head, telling me he had to ask his supervisor if my pass was “the right kind” for on-field photography. I waited.

It’s late, and I’m shooting a Dome Dance. I decide that going upstairs and pointing my camera down on the crowd would create some great angle shots. On the upper level, there’s a lone male usher up there, making sure none of the guests sneak up and run around the rest of the administration building. I turn my focus to the crowd below me, hanging over the rail to get the perfect shot. A few minutes later, I feel movement on my back. To my disbelief, I found the usher was not only touching my back but also pretending to grind on me. I stood next to the female usher the rest of the party, alert.

Touching, sweet-talking, even mentions of “finding a good husband,” I’ve come to realize are actions that one must deal with in a female photographer’s world. I know what I have to do to get the “perfect shot” and, when by myself, I’m confident that I can. However, when I walk in a stadium, court, field, you name it, and see the lines of men waiting for the game to start, that confidence shatters. Thoughts race in my mind. “What am I doing here? Are my clothes too tight? Will someone try to come over and touch me? Great, I have to have one eye on the game and one eye on my shoulder.”

It’s terrifying. But, that terror, that urge to give up, helps me move on with my job. I want to be leader and make a pathway for other women to have a similar job experience as me. To capture that perfect photo, in the last seconds of a game. As women, we have the same rights to be part of photographers’ and sports’ discourse as any male. To give up my passion due to someone’s lack of respect would be a dishonor to myself and towards other women in the same profession.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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