institute for documentary studies

{Week 3: Multimedia}

Week 3: Multimedia


My name is Smith Galtney. I’m a 41-year-old entertainment journalist, and after really getting into photography about a year and a half ago, I decided going to Salt was the perfect next move for me. I’d long been bored writing about pop culture. I was eager to tell good stories about real people. And since I thought I was (a) an all-around nice guy, (b) an above-average conversationalist and (c) a novice but not-bad shutterbug, I had a feeling this multimedia, documentary-studies thing and I would fit like a glove.

And the first week, it really felt like it did! Being in class and meeting the other students, who are all focused and driven and supportive and fun as could be, I was like, “Hey, this glove is making me feel so warm and happy and excited!” But now it’s Week 3 and I’m all, “Is this the right glove for me? I mean, what is this thing covering my hand, anyway? Should I just swap it for an oven mitt, head back home and call it a nice-try?”

Seriously, I haven’t felt this petrified and wracked with self-doubt in a very long time. BUT. I know that’s a good thing. I know life only happens when you put yourself out there and take a risk. And if I hear one more person – be it my sister or a Salt staffer or a former photography instructor – say the words “comfort zone,” I’m going to apply for an internship at the Oprah Winfrey Network.

So, what exactly yanked me out of that zone? It’s not the workload, though we’ve been very busy and seem to learn, like, five new skillsets a week. (Audio kits and Final Cut Pro X and DSLR video, oh my!) It’s not the finding and writing and pitching of stories. (Guess I still have a knack for that, ahem.) It’s not being out in the field, either. (For our Documentary in a Day project, we covered the annual Polar Dip on Sebago Lake, and I was rather surprised/impressed with how “on it” I was – running back and forth across the ice, stomping through big puddles of freezing water, snapping over 800 pictures in a span of 90 minutes.)

Nope, it’s the alarming realization that, when it comes to approaching strangers, I am actually completely terrified. Here I was, thinking I was this really outgoing guy, a seasoned journalist who’d spent years interviewing and writing about people. But it’s one thing when an editor says, “Write 500 words about so-and-so, who’s expecting your call,” and quite another when you have to call someone totally out of the blue and say, “I think you’re really interesting. Will you let me into your life so you can tell me some really personal stuff? Super, I’ll go get my microphone and camera!”

So far, several of those calls have left me feeling like a stalker, or a teenage boy asking someone out on a first date, or both. But in classic just-goes-to-show fashion, the call I thought would be easiest went the worst, and the call that scared me the most – the one to the owner of a gun shop – went swimmingly. In fact, two days ago, I actually went inside that gun shop and hung out with the owner and his wife and another guy who worked there for almost an hour. Turns out they were big foodies, and there we were, amongst all the guns on the wall and the poster of George W. Bush that asked “Miss me yet?” and a mounted t-shirt that said “I neutered my cat, now he’s a liberal,” talking about where to get good Afghani food in Portland!

It was my first time in a gun shop. Ever. And it kind of blew my mind. I may be outrageously outside of my comfort zone, and that glove still feels really strange on my hand, but now I feel like Frodo. There’s no going back to the shire…

- Smith, photo