SOMEBODY UP THERE BELIEVES IN ME
Before going to join Mike Amberger in San Juan, I had the presence of mind to contact the editor of Jubilee Magazine, a slick Catholic publication that was making a name for itself by giving a head start to several soon-to-be-great photojournalists, not the least of which was Charles Harbutt, the young photographer I met by happenstance at the counters of Advance Camera on West 47th Street – a virtual photo-club. Harbutt put me on to Jubilee Magazine. I didn’t expect much when I called for an appointment.
I had been busy seeing other Picture Editors for months and though they all had appreciated the work in my portfolio, they never offered me an assignment. I was to later figure out that presenting them with outstanding images taken over periods of months, at my leisure, did not give the editors a sense of what photographer Chuck Rapoport was capable of producing under the pressure of an assigned story to illustrate. After all, they gave you a day maybe two, sometimes only hours – depending on the whims of the subject – to capture a story and no photo editor wanted to risk a story on a new photographer with a few pages of outstanding pictures.
But, Jubilee Magazine was different. My portfolio impressed them and when I told the editor Ed Rice that I was heading to San Juan he actually had an assignment for me. Seriously. He told me that Father Frank Landry, a missionary priest, was working in Jayuya, a small mountain village in the center of Puerto Rico.
And so, I was discovered. He offered me $200 to spend two days with Father Landry. Real money for a real assignment as a real photographer to shoot a real story about a real person. Cameras, film, underwear, socks; I flew off from Idlewild International Airport (later JFK) on the “Vomit Comet,” the midnight flight to San Juan.
Once in San Juan, I contacted Father Landry who was surprised to find himself the subject of a story for Jubilee. Father Frank invited me to his church high in the mountains.
Next day I took a publicar, a van-like “bus” filled with people and livestock, up the dusty road to Jayuya, which turned out to be a poor hamlet set in the highest region of the island territory, a place where tomatoes could be grown because of the chilly evenings.
I spent several days, sleeping in the seminary, and eating with Father Landry and his superior, a chubby good natured priest, who was awaiting reassignment by the Jesuit Order to some far off parish – further away, if that was possible, than Jayuya. It was my first taste of travel with cameras and passport – and I loved it. And I never looked back.