Meet the Media: Anthony Bolante, Photojournalist at PSBJ

In this edition of Meet the Media, we had the pleasure of talking to Anthony Bolante. Anthony is a 30-year US military veteran who has always had a passion for photography. Anthony’s journey to becoming a photojournalist for the Puget Sound Business Journal is truly one you do not want to miss! 

Can you share your journey from your military service to becoming a photojournalist? What inspired this transition?

I recently retired after a 30-year career in the US Army and US Army National Guard – 12 years on active duty and 18 years as a reservist and guardsman. I held the rank of Army Colonel and was the senior Army aviator west of the Mississippi when I retired at 48. During my military career, I completed three deployments in Afghanistan and one in Kuwait and Jordan, totaling four years of combat service. 

I was born and raised in Honolulu. In high school, I knew that following in my family’s footsteps – my father and brother were both Army helicopter pilots – was a natural choice for me. I had a genuine interest in aviation from a young age and obtained my private pilot license from Cessna at 17. Simultaneously, I harbored a passion for aeronautical engineering and journalism / photojournalism. I always sought a balance between the left-brained world of engineering and the right-brained world of journalism. Reflecting on my life in my 30s and 40s, I realized this balanced approach was essential for me. 

Initially, I pursued aeronautical engineering and attended New Mexico Military Institute after a logistical hiccup that prevented my West Point appointment. I was on track to become an engineer, majoring in both engineering and journalism. Even during college, my interest in journalism, especially photojournalism, persisted. I had a history of serious photography since high school, with a focus on journalism. I graduated from the military junior college at 19, becoming a second lieutenant in the US Army. I had already accumulated significant flight experience by then. I took the first available slot for flight school, fast-tracking my path to becoming a helicopter pilot. This decision led me to drop engineering as a major, temporarily withdrawing from the University of Hawaii. 

For the next few years, I balanced flying helicopters and completing my bachelor’s degree in journalism. Despite a setback with the three-year requirement for degree completion, I finished my journalism degree and continued my military service, flying helicopters until my recent retirement. After completing my mandatory active-duty period post-flight school, I opted to join the Hawaii Army National Guard. During this time, I worked as a photographer at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. My interest in photojournalism persisted, and eventually, I was hired by Reuters, transitioning to a staff photographer role. 

In the late ’90s, I moved to Seattle and worked for the Bellevue Journal American. Subsequently, I had internships in Washington, DC, and London for Reuters, eventually becoming a staff photographer for them. I worked at the Seattle PI briefly in 1998-1999 before Reuters established a bureau in Seattle in 2000, and I served as their staff photographer in Seattle until 2010. In 2011, I got the opportunity to join the Puget Sound Business Journal as a Staff Photojournalist.  

Can you describe a memorable moment when your photography had a significant impact on raising awareness or telling a powerful story?  

I have two memorable moments that come to mind. The first is, that I was photographing the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2000 when Tiger Woods delivered an extraordinary performance, finishing 17 strokes under par – a historic moment in golf. Despite not being an avid golfer myself, the sheer mystique and skill of Tiger Woods left an indelible mark. Despite photographing every president since Bush, it’s Tiger Woods who holds a special place in my memory due to his undeniable charisma and prowess.  

The second was my coverage of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup riots in downtown Vancouver, BC. During this riot, I was one of three Reuters photographers assigned to document the mayhem. Even though it might seem trivial compared to breaking news, this incident struck a chord with me. The riots followed the Stanley Cup playoff finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, reaching a climax in Game Seven. Given my background and experience covering conflicts, I found myself in a unique position to capture the intensity of the situation. My fellow photographer, Jerry Carmen from the Vancouver Sun, and I covered each other in the most perilous situations. One photograph in particular almost cost me my life, as I narrowly avoided being crushed by a flaming Ford pickup truck. The image, later featured on the covers of major Canadian newspapers, spurred a moment of collective reflection among Canadians. 

Can you share a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a typical day in the life of a photojournalist?

Whether I’m in a newsroom with 12 photographers or out on my own, the biggest asset I have, apart from my experience behind the camera, is my organizational skills. I’m an organizer, coordinator and planner for the future. This involves coordinating photo assignments, scheduling coverage of events and planning for upcoming opportunities, sometimes months or even a year in advance. 

A typical day for me involves executing that calendar from 7 am to 7 pm, balancing a mix of planned photo assignments, from events scheduled a year out to breaking news. For instance, I’m currently in the parking lot at Providence in Everett, covering a nurses’ strike – an event not originally on my calendar for today. My ability to navigate scheduling complexities and adjust plans allows me to handle such situations effectively. 

In a day, I typically shoot two to three assignments, with three being a relatively heavy day, considering the deadlines. It’s a mix of capturing events that can be processed later for publication and covering breaking news that requires immediate attention. Once we finish our conversation, I’ll head home to process the photos for tomorrow morning’s edition on the Puget Sound Business Journal homepage. 

One unique aspect of my work is that I have a custom-built photo studio. This studio, designed and built to high standards, is used for shooting executives, the governor, the mayor or other high-profile individuals in a classy setting. This is something different compared to other photographers, and I find it particularly useful for various assignments. 

Every day brings something slightly different, but I can confidently say that I love what I do. Even in the midst of our conversation, my reporter is sitting in his car writing his story, just like I’m talking to you on the phone. It’s a dynamic and ever-changing environment, and I thrive on the challenge of keeping everything together and delivering impactful photographs. 

What advice do you have for aspiring photojournalists?

My advice for aspiring photojournalists is to first understand that it’s not a path to fame or wealth. Photojournalism should be self-reflective, with the intention of making a positive difference in the world. This should resonate with your soul. For me, it’s about educating the world, showing them places, people, and events they might not otherwise see.

Quick Fire Questions:

  1. If I am not working, I am… doing an outdoor adventure sport with my family.
  2. If I could photograph anyone, it would be… the Dalai Lama.
  3. My favorite movie is… Grosse Pointe Blank.

Interested in sharing your work through our Meet the Media series? Email us here.