Be here now
By Michael L. Jones
For Brian Bohannon, photojournalism is about being present to capture life’s extraordinary moments.
After hearing that Eight Belles had gone down after the 134th Kentucky Derby race, Brian turned to see the filly on the track with two broken front ankles. After shooting Derby for 16 years his training and experience as a photojournalist took over, and he captured several poignant images from an exclusive angle of Eight Belles held by track officials before they had to euthanize her.
The moment his photos hit the wire, they were shown by the TV networks and online media and the next day appeared on the cover of the New York Times, the sports front of the Los Angeles Times and later in Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. As a consequence, AP awarded Brian with Beat of the Week #243, an honor usually reserved for staffers for exemplary service.
Brian joined the herd of photographers that shoot Derby while studying photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. One summer he traveled to Alaska and photographed the towing of the wreck of the Exxon Valdez and efforts to clean up the oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound for the Valdez Vanguard. His photo story “A Simpler Way of Life” about an off-the-grid family in Tennessee won an Award of Excellence for Documentary in the 1992 College Photographer of the Year Contest and awards followed for feature photography from the Society for Professional Journalists (1992) and Kentucky News Photographers Association (1994, 1996). After completing newspaper internships in Illinois and Michigan, Brian graduated in 1994 and returned to Louisville.
With newspapers downsizing, Brian began freelancing for the Louisville Courier-Journal, where his first assignment was to cover a story on the National Forest Service’s bolting ban in the Red River Gorge. A climber who had left his job as an optician for photojournalism, Brian was the perfect freelancer for the job and made the cover. He began stringing for the AP, USA Today and local news and alternative media, and now shoots for commercial and public relations clients, along with events, portraits and weddings. Variety is the spice of a freelancer’s life.