01 Jun My Day Job: Samantha Reinders
Samantha Reinders’ bio states that she wasn’t 100% sure when her career as a photojournalist began but thinks it was either somewhere in the curious hills of Appalachia, whilst riding shotgun in her father’s beloved Landrover or sandwiched between two other photographers in the press pool in the Oval Office.
Yes, THE Oval Office. Some of Sam’s clients include US News & World report, Time, The New York Times, National Geographic Books, Smithsonian, Reader’s digest and London Financial times. She also has two books published, The Key to Cape Town and a Travelers Guide to South Africa. We asked her about her adventures.
Between 10and5: Please let us know your official (or unofficial) job title.
Samantha Reinders: I am a freelance photojournalist and multimedia producer. I’m based in Cape Town but work wherever planes, trains and tuk tuk’s go.
10and5: If you studied, what and where did you study?
Sam: I did an undergraduate degree in Journalism at Rhodes University, and after some time travelling I continued my studies – completing a Masters of Visual Communication from Ohio University.
10and5: What characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
Sam: Obviously there is a level of technical skill needed to be a photographer of any kind – but I would argue that other qualities that are almost more important are things like: patience, creativity, curiosity, level headedness and humility. A good sense of humor is pretty key. Multi-tasking and living on two minute noodles can also come in handy at times.
10and5: Strangest place your job has taken you?
Sam: Outer Mongolia, Marion Island and the airspace above the United States of America in Air Force One. Not necessarily in that order. Oh – and add Ouagadougou. Great place.
10and5: Most heart-breaking story you’ve covered?
Sam: Towards the end of 2009 I started working on World Cup related stories and spent an increasing amount of time with a small group of homeless people that lived near the stadium. I spent almost a year working with them, documenting their daily lives, chilling with them and learning about their stories. Their positive attitudes in the face of complete adversity was heart breaking to say the least. (In a sense this also falls under the next question – as well as being incredibly heart breaking, there were many moments that were equally heart warming). Although the story ended long ago I continue to spend time with them.
I’ve also just completed a story on Acid Mine Drainage in Johannesburg. (Acidic water that is HIGHLY toxic and being used by communities all over Gauteng – in many cases without people’s knowledge, and in all cases potentially catastrophic). The complete lack of urgency on the part of the mines as well as the government really saddens me and breaks my heart.
10and5: Most heart-warming story you’ve covered?
Sam: A few years ago I did a story on Doctor Rick Hodes – and American doctor living and working in Ethiopia. I spent 10 days on assignment for Reader’s Digest documenting his life – curing kids with seemingly incurable diseases and officially adopting many of those kids who had passed through his makeshift surgery. I was overwhelmed by his courage, humility and compassion. Google his name to find out more about him – completely inspirational.
10and5: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Sam: Apparently a ballet dancer (according to my mother) – but I don’t remember that. My dad inspired me as a kid and he is a doctor who is passionate about photography. I knew it would be one of the two professions. Lucky for the general populace, I think, photography was the winning career for me.
10and5: Advice to those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Sam: Acquire business skills and then more business skills. Acquire marketing skills and then more marketing skills. Do I need to repeat that? Being a successful freelance photographer involves remaining passionate about what you do – even in situations where passion is the furthest thing from your mind. Being your own boss is liberating and a rollercoaster ride more ferocious than you’ll ever find in a theme park. You have to hold on tight, try not to throw up and breathe. Exhilaration comes free.
10and5: Something your line of work has taught you that you didn’t already know?
Sam: Not sure if I would have known it before…but the job definitely teaches you humility, compassion and stamina. Other things I’ve learnt along the way:
– How to make it seem like your carry-on luggage only weighs 4kgs, and not the 20kgs it really is.
– You can find seagulls in the Gobi desert. Really.
– Angelina Jolie is that pretty in real life.
– You can break your ankle in 5 places if you chase after penguins.
– Camel slobber leaves a stain that is difficult to get out of clothing. Even Vanish doesn’t work.
– The word “hotel” in Burkina Faso does not necessarily have the same meaning of “hotel” in the English language.
– When going to Ghanaian funeral – stretch beforehand, take sun block, water and a heart rate monitor.
10and5: If you weren’t a photojournalist what would you do?
Sam: I still am, and always will be, drawn to medicine. Also I really want to be an FBI agent. But I think that is because I watch too much bad television.
If you or anyone you know has an interesting or strange creative job, we’d love to hear about it! email@example.com