'Pay no attention to the Airman behind the camera'

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein
  • 931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs
"Pay no attention to the Airman behind the camera," or, "just pretend I'm not here," have become my go-to lines whenever I am called to produce a story as an Air Force Public Affairs photojournalist.  In the more than seven years I have performed this duty, both for active duty and the Reserve, it has been my duty to highlight almost every job in the Air Force, but the Airmen I'm featuring don't know why I'm there and often try to avoid being caught in the frame of a photo.

By definition, the primary mission of a Public Affairs photojournalist is to "tell the Air Force story" to a global audience by utilizing both journalism and photography.  While we don't fly planes, act as a sentinel at the gate or turn a wrench on multi-million dollar aircraft, photojournalists are integral in shaping and maintaining the public image of the Air Force worldwide.  That being said, we work for the same "boss" as you, and we want to ensure that we paint the Air Force and its Airmen in the most appropriate light possible.

When an Airman saves a child from a burning vehicle, or when a group of deployed Airmen return, a photojournalist Airman is usually there with a pen, pad and a camera to ensure the public knows what you do for them on a daily basis.  Photojournalism may seem like an easy job, but with more than 70,000 Reserve Airmen and less than 500 Reserve Public Affairs Airmen, it can be difficult to keep up at times, especially when our offices may be manned by as few as two individuals.

I don't bring these statistics up to complain, or even to imply that being an Air Force photojournalist is more challenging than any other Airman's job; it's not.  I bring this up because a photojournalist's job depends on you, and the story you want to tell.  For lack of a better term, "we can make you famous," and with that fame comes the transparency to the public and the support for servicemembers that never goes out of style.

So please, remember this next time when you see the Airman behind the camera.