Senior photographer puts three bokehlicious semesters in focus

Mike McGraw

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line. 

Unlike most staffers, I found the Texan through the Hearst building elevator, not the stairway. It was one of many deviations I would come to be known for during my time at the paper. 

As a Sony fanboy, bokeh lover, Microsoft user and business major, my three semesters in the photography staff taught me more than just photojournalism. It taught me how to work with people very different from myself. 

It takes a special kind of person to shoot photos of random strangers and then run after them to ask for their names. 

Taming the assignment we all call “wild” would prove to my toughest challenge to overcome, but after weeks and months of trying, I gained a sense of confidence in myself I doubt I could have found anywhere else. 

The Texan took me all over Austin and to faraway lands like Houston, Texas, where I photographed the Ambien-laden eyes of Ben Carson and future president Donald Trump at the RNC Debate. His skin really is as (burnt) orange as it looks. 

I made portraits of dozens of people who enriched my understanding of the world and helped me see my place in it. 

I listened to speakers from around the country who spoke on topics I knew nothing about. 

I ate more free pastries and sandwiches than any decent nutritionist would advise. 

More than any experience in my life, the Texan proved to me that constant trial and error, deliberate practice and constructive criticism are the secrets to success. 

Photojournalism is unforgiving. You either get the shot or you don’t, regardless of how pleasing the bokeh looks. I didn’t make the staff the first time I tried out, but I kept practicing and made it on a semester later. 

Putting it all in focus, I know all the hard work was totally worth it.

Even today after completing a countless number of assignments and taking tens of thousands of frames, my photos are still sometimes described as “not bad” or “adequate” by this guy who plays Ping-Pong all day. But every time I go out, I know I’m going to get a little bit better. 

As I leave the Texan and venture into corporate America, I won’t be hanging up my (Sony) camera any time soon. 

You can find me at the nearest sunset or street corner in pursuit of the next great photograph and delicious free meal. 

Thank you to everyone at the Texan who gave me a chance. 

I wouldn’t be the same person without it.