Firefighters exhibit unyielding courage, strength, and commitment to their community and those around them. In honor of International Firefighters Day (May 4), we're featuring some powerful captures of firefighters in action.
At 20 years old, Ben is already a professional news stringer. He got his first camera on Christmas Day, 2014, and immediately began pursuing professional work.
The largely self-taught photographer told FOX 5 Atlanta, "I’ve always been interested in taking photos, but my parents will tell you it goes all the way back to age 8, taking photos at my cousin's baptism."
What began as an interest at a young age became an active pursuit in his teens.
"I took Photography 101 and Lightroom 101 with James Pettit at the City of Roswell Visual Arts Center, which was one of the best decisions I ever made."
Once he learned the basics of photography, Ben furthered his education by reading articles, books, and watching instructional videos on YouTube.
During Hurricane Irma, Ben drove to South Georgia and stayed in a shelter with evacuees from Southern Florida. He said he really wanted to give himself "a trial by fire in what it would take to do this."
The experience set the stage for what would come.
He heard through a family friend that a staff photographer at Forsyth County News had left his position and there might be an opening. He quickly pulled together a portfolio and walked right into the news office and asked to speak with the sports editor.
"I owe it all to Brian Paglia for taking a chance on me. He got me started with high school football and gave me a small paper press pass. I was so excited I had it laminated and made a lanyard of it," he reminisced.
Ben was studying a textbook when he read that photojournalists often listen to local police scanners and EMS channels to find stories. He immediately downloaded a free phone app to access those sources and found his first story three days later.
"I was on my way to dinner with my mom when we came across an overturned vehicle wreck," Ben recalled. "I always carry my camera gear, so I hit the ground running. That was the first real emergency scene I covered. After shooting two house fires and a police scene, Forsyth County News decided to get me a real photo ID badge."
While most can only imagine what it is like to battle the blazes of a house fire or respond to an emergency situation, Ben witnesses firefighters and first responders first-hand, right in the field.
Ben said that, for him, the hardest part is finding the location, but from there, the rest comes naturally.
"Once I’m on the scene, I relax a bit but my adrenaline is definitely flowing. That’s when all of what I’ve read or been taught kicks in, and I get straight to work trying to get compelling photos. Nothing compliments a well-written article better than good photos to go with it."
Capturing firefighters on the job was perhaps a logical choice for the photographer.
"My dad was a volunteer firefighter for 10 years, so he knows some of the faces at the scenes but also gives me pointers on how to stay out of the way."
Ben explained further, "I try to be a ghost. You might see me, but it's just a glimpse if I do it right. People change their behavior once they know they are being observed, so keeping a low profile is important to me."
While there is no shortage of local news to cover, Ben's dream is to cover conflicts and issues worldwide.
"I want to make a lasting impact through my photographs, so when I am long gone, my work will still be around. Any work in this field that comes my way is a blessing that I will take."