If I was about 5-10 years younger than I am now, and if I was as interested in photography back then as I am now (it has been the past 2-3 years that I've developed my interest), the Photographer's Mate in the Navy would be a viable career path.

Within the military, there are jobs that match almost every career path in the civilian workforce.. from auto-mechanic to cook, and from pilot to photographer. The Photographer's Mate is the Navy's professional photographers.

To become a Photographer's Mate one must have an ASVAB Score of VE + AR = 103 (or greater). The Photographer's Mate is, to an extent a photojournalist and must work with people - above average speaking and writing skills are required to preform the tasks. As part of the requirements, it is stated that normal color vision is required - the individual may not be color blind. Other requirements include basic arithmetic and chemistry knowledge along with reasonable manual dexterity and physical strength. The Photographer's Mate must be a U.S. citizen and be eligible for various security clearances.

Specific duties of the PHs include:

  • Operation and maintenance of still and video cameras
  • Preforming duties as members of flight crews
  • Working in a darkroom (equipment and chemistry)
  • Preparation of audiovisual productions
  • Preforming as underwater photographers
  • Working as part of reconnaissance aircraft crews
  • Photographing and writing articles (compare photojournalism)
  • Providing photographic documentation for criminal and safety investigations

The range of photographs taken by a Photographer's Mate is quite varied and depends upon the assignment. Some PH's are part of reconnaissance teams and thus do map-making, others are assigned to take portraits of such events as graduations, yet others are involved in training films or news reports. Almost every photograph around the space missions (such as the Apollo splashdowns) where taken by Photographer's Mates.

A Photographer's Mate may be assigned almost anywhere in the world, ship or or shore. This means work indoors and outdoors in climates ranging from tropical to arctic. The Photographer's Mate may be working solo or as part of a team. On average (over 20 years), an individual Photographer's Mate spends about 60% of the time on ship, and 40% on shore.

Within the job title of Photographer's Mate, there is a large range of specializations. The PH-8143 is a Motion Media Cameraman who works as a camera operator in a small production crew. The PH-8133 is a darkroom specialist who works in shipboard intelligence. The PH-8148 is, quite simply, a photojournalist.

(searching Google for "Photographer's Mate" returns photographs where the credits are that of a Photographer's Mate. Many of these document key points in the history of America.)

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