Fandom: Superman Returns
Characters: Jimmy Olsen
Word Count: 1385
Written for: htbthomas
Betaed by: my parents, the professional portrait photographers
Summary: The difference between an amateur and a professional has never been the equipment, it’s the consistency.
Jimmy doesn’t spend a lot of time in his apartment. It’s a crappy bachelor pad, all he can afford at Metropolis prices, and he’d much rather be out with friends or working or just wandering around Metropolis. Things are looking up this year—what with Superman’s return and the crystalquake and all, he’s got a coffee-table book coming out and a decent shot at a Sprague award, maybe even a POYi, one of the most highly coveted awards in photojournalism. But the photographic world is too unsettled to sit on your laurels, in this day and age. So he’s walking the streets with his camera, looking for targets of opportunity.
There—the way that woman is leaning against the building, century-old architecture clashing with modern street clothes, both tired and worn, the cracks in the pavement left over from the quake matching the lines on her face. The way the light’s hitting her, reflected off the glass building across the street—he takes two steps to the side, squats down. Yeah, it’s better from this angle, her arm looks natural instead of awkwardly posed, and it brings out her facial structure better. She’s got great cheekbones. He snaps the picture, and she must hear him because she turns to him with a what-now? frown on her face. He takes another one, capturing the moment, and stands up to dig a business card and a model release out of his bag.
“Hey,” he says, handing her his card. “My name is Jimmy Olsen, I’m a photographer with the Metropolis Daily Planet, and I’m working on getting an exhibit set up. I was wondering if I could get your permission to use the two images I took of you today?”
She’s flattered, he can tell, and some of the frown lines around her mouth and eyes lighten as she says yes. He writes down her contact information and the number the camera has assigned the photographs, she signs, and he’s on his way again.
Jimmy hopes he can get a gallery to exhibit his photographs. He’s got a better shot now that he’s in contention for a serious award. Five years ago he’d never have seriously thought about going for something like that, but five years ago the digital revolution was in its infancy and the market for photojournalists wasn’t half as treacherous. But now every yahoo and soccer mom thinks they can take their shiny new digital camera out and get the perfect shot, with a little help from Photoshop. But the difference between an amateur and a professional has never been the equipment, it’s the consistency. Jimmy can make every shot count, and if some are better than others there are still very few duds. Getting the perfect shot is great, but getting a good shot every time—that’s better.
None of which matters if he’s not there when news happens and some twelve-year-old with a cameraphone is. But that’s life.
Jimmy was at the right place at the right time during the crystalquake; that shot of Superman with the Planet’s globe on his shoulders like Atlas made the front page of every newspaper in
No, that came afterwards, when the worst was over and Superman was in the hospital but they didn’t know if he was going to live, and all of Metropolis looked around at the damage, squared its shoulders, and dug in to clear away the rubble and start rebuilding itself. Yeah, sure, the damage wasn’t anywhere near as extensive as New Orleans suffered from Katrina, but Metropolis is Jimmy’s city just as surely as it is Superman’s, only he hadn’t realized it until he was walking past a half-destroyed corner deli on the way home to his apartment and saw three young kids sweeping the sidewalk while their dad dealt with the big pieces of rubble and their mom ran the counter in the one corner of the store they’d managed to get clear, and Jimmy realized … he realized that Superman or not, this was a great city, and not even Lex Luthor’s best efforts could bring it down. He’d had his camera with him, and took some pictures even though it really wasn’t the kind of thing Perry would be likely to want, not without a story attached, justifying it by telling himself he could send one of the Lifestyle writers down for an interview or something.
Later, looking at the photographs on his computer, it struck him: how long had it been since he’d taken a photograph for fun? He’d become a photographer because he loved doing it; when had it turned into something he did only for the paycheck? It was a great shot and he loved it and it didn’t matter whether Perry gave a rat’s ass about it. The shot wasn’t perfect, technically or artistically, but it had impact in spades. It didn’t need a story to prop it up. It was the story.
Then next day he spent hours wandering around Metropolis, taking pictures of whatever struck his fancy. Some of them went into the Planet; most didn’t. Jimmy didn’t care because he’d remembered why he’d chosen this career in the first place, uncertain future or not.
Three weeks after that, Perry had cemented his reputation as all-knowing by calling Jimmy into his office. “I hear you’ve been doing some interesting work lately,” he said. “Slice-of-life type stuff. Not the stuff you’ve shown everyone. I want to see ‘em.”
“Gimme half an hour to print them out,” Jimmy said, blinking in surprise. Most of them he hadn’t bothered showing anybody at work; they weren’t flashy enough for the paper’s usual style. And they were too artsy for Perry.
“This is good stuff, Olsen,” Perry said when they were spread out in front of him. “Real timely. We’ll do an insert in Sunday’s paper, color, couple pages of photographs. Call it, “Metropolis Reborn,” put some puff pieces with it, human interest, that kind of thing.”
“Sounds great,” Jimmy said with a grin. It was awesome, and he’d have to get a couple extra copies to save, and it’d be kind of fun to put together, something different. But he had to go with Lee to photograph that thing down in Middle Park, so there wasn’t time to put it together then, and by the time he got back Perry was yelling at Lifestyle and only stopped long enough to say, “You’re the photographer, Jimmy, put together something that looks good.”
So Jimmy started going through his photographs to select the best ones, playing around with cropping and layout. Eventually he took over a table in the briefing room because call him old-fashioned, it was just more satisfying to see his photographs laid out in front of him than on a computer screen. And he stood back, and realized, this was good stuff. It wasn’t just competent, professional work suitable for a major newspaper, it was something unique. Special. Nobody’s but Jimmy’s. Something to be proud of, something he wanted other people to see, something he loved.
The next Monday, the day after his section came out, he got a call from an editor asking if he wanted to do a coffee-table book. Not that he needed the outside confirmation of how good his stuff was, but it was nice to have all the same.
Jimmy smiles, thinking about all of it, as he studies the histogram on the image he just took. He’s smiling a lot, these days. This afternoon when he left work, camera bag over his shoulder, one of the guys had asked him if he was out looking for the perfect shot. Lois, hearing, had fired back, asking if he was volunteering to model. The elevator had come while they were still sniping at each other, and Jimmy had left without either noticing. He’s been out shooting ever since, and it’s getting late enough he should probably think about going home to eat or something. Instead, he gets his camera bag situated more comfortably and continues on, because for Jimmy, the perfect shot is always the next one.