EL PASO – The more than $20,000 worth of clothes and gear worn by Communication professor David Smith-Soto to class on Thursday told a story of his unique and successful career in journalism.
The lesson to be learned by his students today was that “everything is more than it appears to be. Everything has a story,” Smith-Soto said.
His nearly $9,000 Leica camera was no exception. It could tell the story behind a company who saved Jewish employees from the invading Nazis, or it could tell the story of a seasoned photographer of 40 years who happens to “feel a philosophical and moral attachment to the company.”
His three pairs of glasses tell the story of eyes used not only for photography, but for years of writing in journalism and public relations. They also tell the story of eyes saved for a man who depends on them to do what he loves.
With an undergraduate degree in creative writing, Smith-Soto applied for a job at his local newspaper with “zero experience with newspapers.” He got his first job as a “sports half man,” which meant that half the time he covered high school and the other half he covered general assignments. This job lead to every job The Winchester Evening Star had to offer, and moved him onto success as the editor of El Nueva Dia, El Miami Herald, and the Chief of Publications and Associate Deputy for Public Relations of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. However, he has remained a photographer his entire life.
“Photography. I love it, because I don’t think about it. It’s very tactile, very visual, and very satisfying,” Smith-Soto said. He has won numerous awards in the field and his photograph of citizens behind bars was recently featured on the cover of International Poetry Review. Special Issue: Spain’s Poetry of Conscience.
Though Smith-Soto has had obvious success in newspapers, he maintains that the “most interesting jobs I’ve ever had in journalism were the first jobs,” Smith-Soto said. At his first newspaper he took on a story that he now considers a personal “highlight.”
He was able to uncover flaws in the Winchester Virginia prison system that were leading to boys being abused and raped by career criminals. Just one of his inside stories in a series of stories and photographs on the issue exposed that two young boys in the receiving center were beaten and raped by over 40 men. When he wrote about this, the governor ordered an investigation by the State Crime Commission, and he was asked to be chief investigator.
Smith-Soto’s eyes have helped him capture multiple meaningful images and stories throughout his career, but his future ability to photograph and write was threatened two years ago when both his retinas detached from his eyes. This is why he wore three sets of glasses to class. He wore two around his neck, and a permanent set of artificial lenses in his eyes. Through a series of invasive surgeries, Dr. Trubowich was able to save his vision and his ability to continue doing what he loves.