Nathan Edwards is a notorious and much appreciated barbershop inhabitant. He’s also known as an epic news photographer and has photographed some of the world’s most significant events in our recent history. Here’s his story.
How long have you been a photographer? Since I left high school; I didn’t want to do anything else. I’ve worked for News Corp since 1991.
Why photography? Were you always interested in it? Honestly, I don’t know what first got me interested, but I’ve loved it for a long time. I did photography as part of my HSC and really haven’t looked back.
Yes, I was always interested and wanted to be a news photographer.
What is it about photography that first captured you? I was doing art and I liked photography as a creative medium.
How did you get started? Basically from Year 10 in high school I hounded the Daily Telegraph for a cadetship. I always wanted to be a news photographer. After three years of banging on their door, actually getting the cadetship happened really fast. I was in Cowra where I grew up, got the call and had to be in Sydney the next day. I fronted up with my portfolio, got the job and started the next week.
How did you decide on news photography? The great thing about newspaper photography is that you never know what tomorrow might bring. I also love that working for a newspaper you can incorporate nearly all forms of photography – from fashion to sport and portrait.
You were in New York on 9/11. What were you doing there? I was working for the New York Post. I’d just come off covering three weeks straight of the US Open Tennis; it was the year that Leighton Hewitt won.
I was due to have my first day off in three weeks, when I was woken by my pic editor calling to tell me a plane had hit the World Trade Centre and asking me to get down there asap.
Tell us of your experience at ground zero – the people, the surroundings, etc. It was surreal. I ran into the area as the second tower collapsed. People were screaming for their lives, there was a dust haze, bloodied bodies, and the look of terror and desperation on the faces of people around me. There was rubble and what looked like grey dirty snow everywhere. Everywhere you looked there was devastation. And after the buildings came down, it was silent; you could have heard a pin drop.
How has that affected you and your life, do you think? It brings home that life can change in a heartbeat. I’ve always loved New York, but I now have a deeper connection to the city. I’ve also made lifelong friendships with some of the fire fighters I photographed on the day, and then met and got to know them when I went back for the ten year anniversary.
You were also in Bali after the 2002 Bali Bombings. How long were you there? You never know how long you’ll be away when you leave to cover an assignment like the 2002 Bali Bomb. In this case I left the day after the bombing and came home three months later.
Do you have to detach yourself in a sense so that you can get the job done in that situation? Yes, definitely. The lens becomes a bit of a barrier. You can’t get too close, and you have to find a way to switch off afterwards. It’s not always easy.
When you finish working in such horrendous circumstances, how do you go about normal life again? Do you receive any sort of counselling, or is there any other way you have found to deal with those situations? When you leave you try to leave it behind and separate your job from your life. I’ve never had any formal counselling, but I try not to bottle it up, and I talk about my experiences – good and bad – with my wife, family and work colleagues.
A few of the funniest stories you’ve had to cover? An assignment brief to go to Byron Bay to cover a woman who lifts washing machines by her hair was a funny one. Some of my funniest moments on jobs though, aren’t the jobs themselves but the times shared with colleagues.
Have you ever been given a job that gave you a crisis of conscience, as in you weren’t sure if you could cover it? Since becoming a father, I’ve found covering cases about kids, where something awful has happened to them or they’re sick, even harder.
Do you take many photos for fun? Like of your kids, family? Or is it a work thing? No, I’m pretty slack. Like everyone else I use my iPhone, but don’t often get my gear out when I’m not working. My wife has to nag the shit out of me every year to take a Christmas photo of the kids on the beach.
Do you still enjoy being a photographer? I do; I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t. But like every job, you have good days and bad days.
Best parts of your job? The variety, the travel, the different people I get to meet. There are a lot of perks.
Most people assume that it would be great meeting celebrities, but I find the real people and stories more interesting.
Worst parts of your job? Meeting someone you’ve always idolised, and they turn out to be an arsehole.
Death knocks (speaking with the partner or family of someone who has just died), spending hours and hours outside a court, and then trying to avoid either the crooks or their families as they take a swing at you on the way out.