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Saturday, April 1, 2023

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Gary Payne Gary Payne

A Snapshot of Reality

Gary Payne combines lessons from his life’s work as a photographer and his time at SDSU while helping the community.
By Lainie Fraser

Gary Payne spent nearly five years as a photojournalist in Mexico and Argentina where he learned what was important to international communities. He launched a professional photography company and has been in the business for more than 30 years, through which he learned photos are more to him than a captured moment in time. 

Payne thinks of photographs as a way to access the true meaning behind something.

“I think photojournalism, and even photography more generally, are access points to bear witness to the heart of what is interesting and important,” Payne said.

He also sees a connection between his perspective on photography and SDSU’s Graduate Program in Homeland Security (HSEC), where he’s learned of his interest in national and international politics, conflicts and security. Now, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, he has learned of his passion to help those when and where he can.

The son of L. Robert Payne of SDSU’s L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism, is now in his third semester of the program after spending time previously searching for security related conference, “just out of personal curiosity and interest,” he said.

“It feels like homeland security, whether it’s counterterrorism, law enforcement, or emergency management, is all about getting to what’s most important, or maybe what’s potentially most dangerous.”

In addition to going to school and running a business, two years ago Payne joined the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

“The same interest that lead me to the HSEC program also had me searching for other ways I could be of service that related to security and emergency response,” Payne said. 

As his photography business slowed due to COVID-19 and local resources became stressed, Payne’s CERT team was activated to help with food distribution at different San Diego Food Bank centers and Feeding San Diego warehouses across the county. 

“Since school went virtual and all of my photography work disappeared, it feels good to do something positive and productive in this crazy COVID situation we all find ourselves in,” Payne said. “I know there is a slight increase of risk to myself and my family by going out and volunteering like this, but it feels worth it. I also think if you don’t help out in times like this, when will you help?”

While his photojournalism work and time at SDSU has taught him what is interesting and important to foreign communities, his work as an emergency volunteer has taught him about how to keep them safe.