Photojournalism at its finest: Jeff Widener talks Tank Man

Jeff Widener, former AP photographer, shares a photo of a Ghanian soldier guarding a ballot box in 1993 at our Oct. 7 SPJ meeting.
Jeff Widener shares a photo of a Ghanian soldier guarding a ballot box in 1993 at our Oct. 7 SPJ meeting.

Jeff Widener, photographer of the iconic “Tank Man”, visited Ohio University to speak with SPJ members about the importance of following your dreams as a journalist.

Before his position at Associated Press, Widener worked for various newspapers across the country. He describes his career as a rollercoaster, going from paper to paper without much money in between. Nevertheless, he persevered through the ups and downs, and always managed to keep in touch with longtime friend and mentor Hal Buell, head of photography at AP.

Buell consistently told him when any positions opened up, but the timing had never been right. One day, however, recently unemployed Widener got a call from Buell. He told Widener there was a position available and asked if Widener could travel to the Philippines. Without hesitation, Widener said yes. In a quick turn of events the offer changed to a position in Bangkok, a place Widener had long-standing suspicions he would eventually end up.

“I just left the job at the LA Sun and I couldn’t afford a pack of gum. The next minute, I’m sipping champagne in the cabin of a 747 to Bangkok,” Widener said. “Just goes to show you how fast events in life can change.”

Widener’s success has given him many stories to tell and he made it clear to SPJ members to never give up and that if they truly wanted something, it would happen for them.

“If you can get passed the obstacles and look at them as challenges and feel good about yourself when you get passed those challenges, than you are definitely going to make it,“ he said.

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