Everyone who's ever had a boring, unfulfilling job that they've always wanted to quit in order to pursue their true passion, but maybe never had the guts to do it, can look up to Eric Cable.
A late bloomer to photojournalism, Cable spent his first years out of college, up until the age of 29, building an auto wholesale business where he bought and sold cars and trucks around the country. It was a self-sustaining cycle with no end in sight.
One day in 1999, Cable decided that he’d had enough.
"Out of the blue, I decided I wanted to be a press photographer," the Portland, OR, USA-based photojournalist says. "So I sold my business and everything related to it, and made a major investment in Nikon digital and film gear."
That’s a typical attitude for Cable, as he seems to want to jump feet first into anything; especially when it came to what he truly wanted to do: photojournalism. His passion, slightly fanned in college but reduced to embers during his sales career, was reignited after Cable made his abrupt career change. With success in news photojournalism that eventually led to a career in photographing weddings, Cable's decision appears to have paid off, given his slate of WPJA awards.
Perhaps it was an eye that could spot the best cars to trade that gave him the presence of mind to know when and where to spot the best pictures, whether they be once-in-a-lifetime action shots or private, emotional moments that would go unseen without him, like his WPJA award-winning photograph of a father daintily dabbing away a tear before walking his daughter down the aisle.
Or perhaps it was an incessant persistence that would eventually pay off as a man shooting pictures for a living.
What Cable lacked in experience from the get-go in photojournalism, he made up for with his tool: the Nikon D-1, a novelty by 2000 standards. After taking some assignments for local papers in Oregon, he was soon shooting for the Associated Press, largely, he admits, for his advanced digital camera.
And into the fire he was thrown.
"That was a huge learning experience," he says. "I never had any instruction in how to shoot news, so my first dozen or so assignments were questionable to say the least."
While covering assignments that included political news, protests, sporting events and just about anything else, Cable picked up invaluable photojournalism skills, such as meeting deadlines, dealing with pressure-packed situations where you only have one chance to get a shot, and learning the craft of taking great pictures.
Unfortunately, the economics of being a freelance news photographer were not entirely conducive to raising a family, which he was doing at the time. Still, Cable did not want to sacrifice his passion for photojournalism, so he persevered.
Cable figured out how he could work in the emerging style of wedding photojournalism that valued capturing candid, intimate moments rather than set-up stooges smiling at a camera. It was the style Cable already shot in and wanted to continue.
"I never wanted anything to do with weddings because everything was soft-focused, posed and mind-numbingly boring," Cable says.
As in the other stages of his life, Cable dove right in. He initially offered to photograph three weddings free of charge, just to get enough images to create a portfolio to show potential clients. From there, he took the album to a wedding show, where his unique shooting style helped him book nearly 30 weddings for the next year.
"I was one of the first guys in my town (Salem, OR) who was shooting like that so it was really easy to book," he says.
As with his news photography career, Cable got by with a lot of on-the-job learning at first. And he had to, considering that before he started documenting weddings, he had only been to two such events in person: one was his own, the other when he was a teen. "Believe me, I wasn't paying attention at either one of them," he says.
While his previous newspaper and newswire experience had left him with the chops to capture moments through his lens, he found that he picked up more skills with each wedding he worked, such as where to stand to anticipate great shots and how to take good pictures in dimly lit churches and reception halls.
He moved to Portland in 2002, where he found more photographers documenting weddings in the same style he had been using. But amid the increased competition, Cable kept carving out his space, getting more couples referred to him, building his business and honing his craft.
With a true sit-back-and-shoot outlook, Cable says that most of his best weddings for candid photos rely largely on the demeanor of the bride and groom. An outgoing, fun couple usually has similar friends and family members, who bring the same freewheeling attitude to the day. An introverted couple, however, may be harder to catch opening up and letting loose during their wedding day, posing more of a challenge.
But his best work seems to spring up when he least expects it. He modestly says: "My favorite photos are the ones where I got lucky, and something wonderful happened right in front of me."
Well, if he gets lucky this often, it may be time to buy a lotto ticket. For one shot of a garter catch, he captured a rowdy group of guys, vying for the lacy prize in a mid-air action shot that won him a 3rd-place WPJA award for an action shot.
"One never knows where exactly the garter is going to fall, or just how crazy the group will get," Cable says. "And, of course, it all happens at mach speed."
He took the same attitude to a lively dancing scene, where he snapped the bride mid-twirl, with a wildly expressive facial expression, as her newlywed husband looks on. "I suspect I will be lucky if I ever get as good a dance photo as this," Cable says.
Like his buy-and-sell business earlier in life, Cable's extended journey featured some repetitive undulation, as he kept jumping headlong into a new venture, learning on the job, and developing into a pro.
Now, he finds himself solidly immersed in his passion of wedding photojournalism, the trajectory of which seems to be steadily heading upward. He continues to do travel and magazine photography in addition to his wedding photojournalism practice, vindicating his abrupt decision to shun the salesman's suit and strap a camera around his neck.
—by Paul Ziobro for the Wedding Photojournalist Association