One Week of Assignments: Robert Gauthier

A man with chalk all over his hands grimaces and grips a plastic hold
Capturing the intensity and emotion of the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup in Salt Lake City was challenging for Times photographer Robert Gauthier, as competitors faced away from him most of the time. He still managed, ending up with these shots of French climbers Michael Mawem.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
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Ever wonder what a typical week for a photojournalist looks like?

It struck me while in conversation with staff photojournalist Robert Gauthier that on any given day, this job has them running all around Los Angeles, California and sometimes beyond ... which is typical and very much a normal course of their week.

While sitting with this thought, I tapped him to turn in a set of his favorites from a week of assignments. The most immediate thing I saw was emotions and hard work — from Rob and from the moments he documented.

In this particular week, he worked on a future Food section story he has been personally developing, he went to prom, popped over to Utah and covered yet another Lakers game. He also saw some cats, so that was cute.

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Follow Rob and the engage with the rest of the crew at @latimesphotos.

Kate Kuo, deputy director of photography

High school sweethearts embrace in front of lockers at their on-campus prom.
Sierra Vista High School senior sweethearts Jade Magallanes and Jose Gonzalez.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As a general assignment photographer, I bounce between all types of subjects, people and events. Tuesday, May 18, through Monday, May 24, serves as a good example of such variety.

Tuesday, May 18 — It began with an unusual, inspiring event. An on-campus senior prom at Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park. Following a year of distance learning and piles of dread and worry, not to mention isolation and uncertainty, this was a group ready to blow off steam. Together again, picking up the remnants of their lost year. Pure joy!

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Read the story here.

Two photos with blurry backgrounds of high schoolers dancing at an outdoor prom

Covering a close game can test a shooter’s nerves as it usually boils down to one play.

Wednesday, May 19 — I covered the L.A. Lakers and the Golden State Warriors in an NBA playoff play-in game. Another pandemic-influenced scene.

Top: A sign reads, "Los Angeles Lakers family" and a player throws powder; Bottom: LeBron James shoots a basketball

Playing in a half-empty, COVID-19-compliant Staples Center, LeBron James outdueled Stephen Curry to a 103-100 win. An odd site for a team favored to repeat as champions. Exciting for any basketball fan. A little different for press photographers shooting from the stands. Covering a close game can test a shooter’s nerves as it usually boils down to one play. This time, LeBron made a long, fall-away three-pointer in the last minute to seal the win. Unfortunately for all of us, he was facing the wrong way. Luckily, we could see defender Stephen Curry’s face. Good enough to tell the story.

Check out the details from this game.

The challenge here is to capture Jin’s passion and dedication to making fine sake.

Thursday, May 20 — I was with brewer James Jin as he sweated over a pile of steaming rice, an early step in the process of creating finely crafted sake. Jin and his wife Emiko run Nova Brewery in Covina, Calif. He’s a graduate of Ayala High in Chino Hills, Calif., who trained with master sake brewers in Japan. I committed to following the process from rice to bottling and plan to photograph them serving this batch of sake to customers at their pub next door. The challenge here was to capture Jin’s passion and dedication to making fine sake. It’s an intense mix of science and sweat. Later that afternoon, I visited varsity cheerleading practice to continue my story about Sierra Vista High senior Johnny Sen. He was working hard, tossing and catching teammates. Further proof of the resilience of youth. Despite masks, there was a growing sense of normalcy surging among the students.

Top: A man wipes sweat from his forehead as he stands behind a table with a giant pile of rice
Bottom: hands handle rice

After all, photos of athletes’ backs don’t sell.

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Friday, May 21 — I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to photograph U.S. Olympic
climbers. A few on the team were competing Saturday. Sunday, I would get a chance to meet them and take portraits.

Top: A boy falling from a wall screams; Bottom: a man hanging from a plastic hold screams and pumps his fist.

Saturday, May 22 — This was my first crack at covering competitive climbing. The crowd was large and the competition intense. The challenge for me was to find good angles to capture intensity and emotion. As the athletes were facing away from us most of the time, struggling, pushing their muscles from fingertips to toes to scale walls, I felt I was facing my own set of challenges. After all, photos of athletes’ backs don’t sell.

Sunday, May 23 — Portrait day presented missed possibilities. Location portraiture is tricky. We often are stuck in a spot chosen by the least visual people involved. After a brief negotiation, I was allowed into the training area. At first site, there was a supremely colorful wall, chocked with climbing doodads and fake boulders. My head swirled with possibilities for an excellent set of portraits. Alas, only fool’s gold, as the space wasn’t available to me and I was relegated to the back room. A large, dreary set of practice walls. Using a filtered light, I believe we made the best of a drab situation.

Read more about speed climbing.

A boy stands on the ground with his hands on a large plastic hold attached to the wall
U.S. Olympic climber Colin Duffy at a portrait session at a training facility in Salt Lake City. The photographer used filtered light to create a photogenic environment out of a mostly drab room.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

We’re always in search of a revealing “moment.”

Monday, May 24 — Back at Nova Brewery with James Jin. Watching him work, I realize the metaphor sake brewing brings to photojournalism. The hours, days and weeks dedicated to the meticulous process necessary to make rice wine bring him as much satisfaction as watching people enjoy finely crafted drink. Sometimes we sweat (I really need to get in shape) long before we trigger a camera.

Looking back, this week offered a glimpse of most of the challenges newspaper photographers face. We’re always in search of a revealing “moment.” Whether it’s NBA superstar LeBron James, master sake brewer James Jin, or high school kid Johnny Sen, the mission remains the same.

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Cats sprawl out under a car
Cats don’t care about the “no parking” sign as much as the person who parked their car at a Covina, Calif., industrial park.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Robert is currently covering the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

More visual journalism form the photography staff of the Los Angeles Times