Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Photographer angst...

Who are the most abused people in a news-organisation in India and you will invariably find that it is the people who take the picture or shoot the video. As a reporter I don't think its fair. While many older generation photographers and camerapersons were guys with literally nothing better to do in life with a few very notable exceptions who today run about carrying some of the most pointlessly expensive equipment in the world - I met this clown the other day from some local neighbourhood thingjammy with a D200 and was amazed, many of the younger kids, guys my age, in the profession are trained to do this job and trained to do it well. And they do it very, very well.
My problems with photographers is not that, even with many of the younger and better photographers, especially those who work on feature stories and not news stories should do more boot work. My job as a writer is to write, I can visualise some of the images that might look good in my story and I can also help in organising photoshoots, but like what has happened to me this week, I spend too much of my time organising photoshoots. Especially when you are stuck doing a story which covers a rather large sector and you have to shoot lots of people in various parts of the country, this becomes a energy-sapping chore.
And I don't get it! I speak to my peers from international publications who do much stories and their photographers never travel with them on such a feature. They operate independently, however the writer/anchor tells the photographer that these are the people and these are the sort of pictures that need to be taken. The photographers are usually good enough and have brains enough to take and even create some unique shots.
However, in my publication where we pride ourselves and rightly so on our visuals, sometimes just doing the shots and conceptualising the shots that really you should not, takes time away from my reportage. A photo-journalists job is not just to click, it is more and I don't understand why so many of them don't think, and I'm lucky that I have worked with one colleague who is very good. I still believe that they sometimes get derided by reporters who think of themselves as superstuds and divas, "we suffer so much." I know for a fact that in one national newsweekly after the blasts in Mumbai on July 7, the reporters didn't move their asses, while ths phtographers ran to the scene. However, it was the 'reporters' who were praised. Bullcrap, because I saw what happened, and that wasn't the only example.
But, I'm scared sometimes of sending photographers alone on big shoots, because my editor will end up screaming at me, "Its YOUR byline." I'm paranoid of letting photographers completely loose, because I get screamed at if something goes wrong, and this applies particularly to some guys I've worked with. You suddenly see what they shot and you're flabbergasted because I can shoot better pictures on better settings. There was one guy I worked with who had set his DigiSLR to Auto-ISO and the ISO readings on the photos were all over the place, and the best part was that the guy didn't know. This is your livelihood, you should know what every button, switch and knob can or cannot do, you are not an amatuer, buddy. Another guy didn't even land up for a shoot because he was busy somewhere else and never bothered to inform me. I had told a colleague long ago, written down, "This is the story I am doing, this is who you have to shoot." He forgot.
And thats why you need photo editors here. Someone I can call and brief and help him out organising stuff, but not someone I need to micromanage. Its just that I'm a bit angry right now because I'm pooped getting things done. Things that are really way beyond my job profile. But then again, I guess it comes with the territory.
Someone has entered a Wikipedia entry about me, I cannot edit it because I remember meeting Jimmy Wales, the 'benevolent dictator' of Wikipedia back in early 2005, in fact, I was the first Indian journalist to interview him and he himself that no-one should edit their own profiles. It is ethically incorrect. Little wonder that half of India's corporates get their PR firms to edit their Wikipedia profiles.


Bonatellis said...

wow!! congrats on the Wiki entry ...

do note that the one on the RSMP has some wrong Englsih ... typo presumably :)

Soumyadip said...

And those entries evidently read PR drafted, poorly at that. Most of them are copy-paste jobs from the corporate websites, but those guys aren't even good at Ctrl+c Ctrl+v.

And the pseudonymous blogger gets an pseudonymously contributed Wikipedia profile ... duniya is goal afterall.

thalassa_mikra said...

First off Happy Birthday!! How did you celebrate?

Is a D200 considered particularly expensive? What do professional photographers in India generally use?

A lot of photogs seem to be obsessed entirely with lenses, so the camera's inconsequential, but once you've got your entire L-series menagerie you're truly there.

Also with companies putting SLR worthy features in point-and-shoot cameras, the quality of amateur photographs have improved tremendously (and then there's also the prosumer market of amateurs splurging on SLRs and lenses). The professionals would have to be much, much better to show that they are worth the money.

Shivangi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shivangi said...

You are complaining about spending too much time arranging photoshoots for a story? ONE story??? STORY??? ONE???

Shivam said...

who could have created the Wikipedia entry?

chakkare said...

Interesting post.

But tell me one thing, how many times has your report looked great - with the help of a good picture?

And how many times have you screamed at the desk, because they have messed up your report?

Most of the time, a picture will ensure more people will read the story (with YOUR BYLINE). Does it not make sense to get them on your side as soon as you get your story idea concrete?

However, I must admit it is a good post, which gives me fodder for mine!

Thanx a lot!!

K said...

I do not mean to demean photogs, I think they do a trying job and travel more than us. But, so many of them refuse to think, and then the picture looks sad and therefore the story looks sad.
Yes, I know - as a feature writer I know pretty well - that the pictures have to be great, and that I must work with the photogs arranging them. But sometimes, even when they know who to contact, the photodesk refuses to co-ordinate anything. And that is sooooo frustrating!

Anonymous said...

There is one reason am writing this comment. Because you loved working with me and you don't count me with all the others.
But hey I've a different trouble now....managing the huge inflated ego (which is getting biiger every day) of a "CHIEF" photographer..........aaaaaaaaaagh!