Working with news photographer Amber Waterman is an unquestionable delight. She's fearless and funny and no matter where you are or what the circumstances, people are drawn to her like bees to a flower. Cops want to talk to her. So do the bad guys. If you're a reporter trying to get man-on-the-street detail, Amber's presence is priceless – just sit back and take notes while strangers crowd around her and babble without reserve. It's what we in the news business refer to as "a wicked easy assignment."
It seems like everybody in and around the Twin Cities is familiar with Amber's work, but what do we really know about this charismatic lady from Iowa? Almost nothing, so I asked her a few tough questions. Crowd around, everybody, and hear what she has to say.
When did you know you wanted to become a photographer? I was 8 years old, on vacation with my parents in Michigan, when I took this photo of an overturned boat along the lake at sunset. It was a total cliche, but it made me realize what I could do with a camera. I have never really put down the camera since then. My childhood dentist even had it in his notes I wanted to be a photographer at age 10! I had an appointment with him when I was 22 or 23. He asked me what I was doing for work, and at that time I was a photographer for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier. He was pretty proud of me for pursuing my dreams!
Is there one photo in particular that you've always wanted to shoot but haven't yet had the chance? Hmm, that's an interesting question. After doing this for 14 years, I have shot just about everything you could think of that wasn't illicit. Maybe war photography would be the answer. I used to really want to be a war correspondent. Domestically, I would say something compromising of my boss so I would get a raise! Just kidding! Going on an armored truck run and inside of a bank vault would be cool. I've tried to do that a couple of times, but have been always told no by security.
What's the easiest news photo to shoot? Spot news or sports. I mean, the action is happening right in front of your lens! All you have to do is put yourself into a position for the right angle and best composition (which can be difficult with spot news sometimes).
What's the hardest? When anyone has been critically injured or lost their life. People think we're ghouls, but I have completely lost it at some scenes. Like when they pulled 14-year-old Abby Silvermane out of the Little Androscoggin River. Her sister was sitting on the bank, sobbing her name — it really made me think of my three older sisters. I think about her every time I am in that area. Also, it's hard approaching the family members of victims. I feel like a complete ass, but I also feel it's important to remember the person's life and how they lived it. It creates a lasting memory of someone who was taken too soon.
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be? Actually, I've been thinking about this a lot since the newspaper industry is declining. I always run "what if" scenarios to prepare myself for the worst — which would be to not be a photojournalist anymore. (I'm a news junkie. I have a quote from Brian Stillman taped to my computer monitor that says: "I love this job. Nothing like paranoia and neurosis. Who needs a coke habit? I've got journalism!") So I think my path would lead me to something that was not in an office and that gave me freedom like I have now. I always joke with the lover, Eugene, that I will be a stay-at-home mom to our three dogs. I just really don't know, and let's hope I never have to find out!
What's your favorite drink? Caipirinha, but you can't find that everywhere. So my backup is a Manhattan or cherry vodka with either club soda or diet lemon-lime soda. If it's nonalcoholic, americano or Monster Rehab. Can't live without those!