My love of photojournalism began with my dad. He was an AP foreign correspondent and I borrowed his camera when I was 16 and started taking pictures. In college, I majored in Government because I didn’t think I could really get a job in photojournalism. After I interned at the Washington Star (DC) and the Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock) I realized that this idea of being a photojournalist was possible.
After graduating in 1982 I worked at three newspapers: The Bristol (VA) Herald Courier, The Kingsport Times-News and The Knoxville Journal. At all three I was the first woman or only woman photojournalist they had hired. But the people I photographed expected a man and were surprised to see me at their door. They had not seen a woman carrying a camera for their local newspaper.
In the summer of 1985, I moved to Washington DC, where I was one of the first women hired to work on the picture desk at Reuters. The other female hired by Reuters was Charlotte Massey. I had the dual role of photo editor and photographer. I made pictures on big stories like state visits, large protests, and quirky features. Colleen Combes joined us and we became a trio of women at Reuters. We were hired to work the photo desk, shoot occasional assignments in DC and eventually receive a posting at a Reuters foreign bureau.
After several years on the desk at Reuters in DC, I realized a foreign posting was not going to happen for me. I missed the daily challenge of newspaper photojournalism and began a job search that took me back to the street. From Reuters, I moved to New York City as a staff photographer for New York Newsday. Our visual team was a mix of men and women. I was very proud to be part of the Newsday team that won the Pulitzer Prize in1992 in breaking news for our coverage of the Union Square Subway crash. Our coverage led to improved rail safety standards and random drug and alcohol testing of motormen and bus drivers.
During my time at Newsday, I was dating Bert Fox, Photo Editor & Art Director at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Sunday Magazine. I had met him earlier while working at Reuters. He would call each day to ask about photos available for his story budgets. Those conversations turned into friendship and eventually, marriage. While I loved my job at Newsday, I did not want us to live apart. We both looked for jobs in each other’s cities and a staff photographer job opportunity came up at the Associated Press in Philadelphia, right across the street from the Inquirer. I was offered (and accepted) the job in a phone booth call (no cell phones in 1994) as we honeymooned in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After dating long-distance for three years, it was great to be able to meet for lunch, talk picture stories, and also understand the challenges of our careers.
At the AP I worked with Jean Mell who was a photo editor. Nationally, I was one of ten women shooters of a 100 member staff (women comprised 10/100 of staff). At that time, no women staffers had children or families. Two years later, we moved to the Washington/Baltimore area when Bert was offered a job as Illustrations Editor at the National Geographic, his dream job. The Baltimore Sun had several openings and I started a staff photographer job there that would last 11 years. At The Sun, our staff was an even mix of men and women. The staff was supportive and family-oriented and the paper had a generous leave policy.
At The Sun I had great opportunities to cover local, national and international stories. We were encouraged to propose and follow through with stories. In 1998 I was asked to organize the NPPA Women in Photojournalism conference and jumped at the chance to bring professionals together. Our theme was “Sharing Perspectives.” We had 300+ attendees, great speakers and breakouts. I felt a strong sense of accomplishment. A year after the conference, I traveled to Cuba to cover Pope John Paul II’s historic trip. The next year I returned to cover the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National team’s exhibition game. As I headed to the airport, I shared with my editor that Bert and I were expecting a child. Our son would grow up to play and love baseball. Who knows? Perhaps he felt the excitement of those games.
Charlie was born later that year in October. Both The Sun and National Geographic provided a supportive work environment to raise him—I felt a good balance of work/life/motherhood. While on maternity leave, I was offered a job at the White House as official photographer for Laura Bush. It was a difficult decision, but I turned it down because I knew if I accepted, I would seldom see my family; it was simply not the right time for us. I also valued the objectivity of being a news photographer and wanted to remain so. Interestingly, Bert was the first man to take paternity leave in the history of dads at the National Geographic and after he did, others followed in his footsteps. I took six months, Bert took three months, and that arrangement set the stage for our son to be equally parented by each of us.
Following the Women in Photojournalism conference, we wanted to keep the energy going and started an informal gathering of photographers, aptly called “Photo Gathering,” to share stories and photos in our Maryland living room. We carried on for six years, every other month a potluck dinner and telling stories - process, images, how-to, and anecdotes. Between the photographers at The Baltimore Sun, National Geographic and the DC community we were able to put together a great array of presenters.
In 2006, Bert took a buyout at National Geographic and became the Director of Photography at The Charlotte Observer. I left The Sun a few months later and we moved to Charlotte, where I started my business—Nanine Hartzenbusch Photography—and turned my skills in a new direction to specialize in family & child portraits in a casual/natural outdoor style, bringing out the best in each person. I also worked with editorial clients—newspapers, magazines, college publications, served on several non-profit boards and worked with a psychological counseling center as a community relations manager (fundraiser, communications, board development). I learned how to integrate social media into my photography business. I even taught college photojournalism classes at Queens University and the Art Institute of Charlotte. This stew of jobs and commitments allowed me to be involved in the community but set my own schedule and work on my own terms.
We were in Charlotte for 12 years, and just recently moved to upstate South Carolina, near Clemson University. Bert retired four years ago; our son is in college, and we wanted to live closer to the outdoors on a lake in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. I will continue my photography business and work remotely—meeting clients in Charlotte and DC and growing my business locally. I’ll try new ways to be creative—selling fine art photography and collage art in galleries and Etsy. I may look into teaching opportunities near our new home, I enjoyed sharing our craft with students—the history, ethics, and appreciation of photojournalism to increase digital media literacy and critical thinking on visual journalism.
Thirty-seven years later after starting my first newspaper job, I am exploring new ways to use my camera and sharing my knowledge and experience with the next generation. I miss many aspects of working in a newsroom, but I also know that newsroom jobs are becoming rare and disappearing with the demise of print journalism. At the same time, I am enjoying evolving and growing as a photographer, business owner, wife and mother and all that comes down the road.