A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Q&A: Samaruddin Stewart, photojournalist

By Quill

Q: Where did you get your journalism/photography training?

A: Outside of “on the job” training, I received both a Bachelor of the Arts in Journalism and a Master of Mass Communication degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Q: You went around the world in 56 days in a 1954 airplane. What was the best part of that experience? Tell me about some of the people you met. Who left the biggest impact on you?

A: The best single part of the experience was completing a global circumnavigation safely. Attempting such feats, whether by boat, plane, balloon, etc., always is a risky proposition, and we thankfully were able to succeed with everyone on our team unharmed. Along the whirlwind journey we had the good fortune of meeting Prince Philip in London, Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney, as well as seeing the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, Ayers Rock and Easter Island to name a few highlights. The biggest impact on me had to have been attributed to the remarkable crew I was part of – the select men who flew, navigated, repaired, planned and dreamed this incredible adventure up.

Q: Was this assigned by someone, or did you just do this on your own?

A: The opportunity for this project came to me during my graduate studies at ASU. Lyle Campbell, a local banker and businessman in the Phoenix area, had approached ASU and specifically the journalism school to nominate a student who the school felt could attempt documenting such a project. The assignment to document the trip came directly from Lyle Campbell, who also funded the majority of the experience with some limited corporate funding.

Q: You wrote a book about the experience. Was that decided before you took the trip, or did you decide to do it after the trip was over?

A: Though we always knew we would do some post-trip project, we didn’t know at the beginning that it would become a bound hardback book. During the adventure, on a daily basis, I would transmit photographs and text accounts of the days’ activities to a Web site where they were posted online every day. Transmitting daily was a major feat since we were in more than two dozen different countries during the entire route, meaning utilizing a vast array of power adapters, phone adapters, as well as satellite technology to keep connected. After returning from the adventure, we began to work on a book, which was completed some time after. Currently in its second printing, “The Adventure Continues: London to Sydney Air Race 2001” was published by Peanut Butter Press in Seattle and more info can be found at www.adventurecontinues.com.

Q: You recently completed an air race around New Zealand; do you have any other adventures on your horizon?

A: In early 2004, I documented the Around New Zealand Air Race in photographs and text accounts, again transmitting daily to a Web site for others to follow, still located at www.nzairrace.com. The next large aviation adventure is slotted for late 2006; I am part of a team that plans to global circumnavigate the earth from top to bottom utilizing the North and South Poles. We are currently in the process of obtaining all the clearances, flight planning, and fuel planning needed to complete the journey. Stay tuned!

Q: What exactly is air racing? How are teams judged?

A: Air racing is much like any other kind of racing in which entrants fly their aircraft from point to point on a defined path. Since different aircraft have different speeds, most races will “handicap” airplanes – setting a reference speed for your aircraft to fly against, which is determined usually by your manufacturer’s specifics. In this way, slow and fast planes can race in a race together fairly, but in the end, are racing their reference speed – not each other – so the person that beats their reference speed the best, wins. Precision flying is another way to make the race fair, where entrants estimate how long it will take from point to point, and will speed up or slow down their speed to make the estimated time.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?

A: That the news is ever-changing and exciting, and photography has given me the ability to travel and experience the world. I am humbled and lucky that every day I get to work with photography.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: I don’t think there is any one single moment, but I do find pride in the recurring feeling that every photograph will live on and help tell a story. That every time the shutter snaps, it may help record a place in time and history, and may help to tell this persons story now and to his or her grandchildren and their children. I am also happy that the “Adventure Continues” book is the first ever – and the only first-person documentation – of the London to Sydney Air Race, which is a historic race flown in 1919, 1934, 1969 and again in 2001.

Q: What is your day-to-day routine like?

A: The majority of my time is spent editing news photographs from several wires and agencies that are presented online at AOL News. … I also am assigned from time to time to originate photographs for AOL News, including recently covering both 2004 political conventions, the 2005 Bush inauguration, as well as spending a week along the Arizona/Mexico border in April 2005 documenting the porous borders and the issues involved with illegal immigration.

Q: Do you have any words to live by?

A: Maybe “Life’s too short” and “the Adventure Continues!”