Run…run for the hills…It’s that time of year again . I’ve been trawling through my work in 2014, some great trips and some fascinating jobs as is usual and as expected this blog will have a whole shed load of pictures. My jobs this year seemed to have formed themselves into loose groups.
Royals is one group including trips to New Zealand, Australia and Oman. I seem to have photographed Prince Harry a lot this year compared with previous years and obviously The Duchess of Cambridge still figures quite high on the table too.
Politics is in there too, though I notice I’ve somehow managed to avoid the biggest political character of the year Nigel Farage.
WWI and WWII both had big anniversaries this year; the 70th for D-Day and of course 100th for the start of the First World War. The fantastic Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at The Tower of London featured heavily and when Princes Harry and William visited with The Duchess of Cambridge it seemed to tie my year all together with the royal coverage I’d been doing elsewhere.
As always there was the supply of ‘fluff’… photocalls, features, business portraits and the hardy annuals of Wimbledon and Ascot.
The final group is funerals. I’ve covered five this year. The first was the funeral of Roger Lloyd-Pack, ‘Trigger’ from Only Fools and Horses. The second was of Private William McAleer buried 100 years after his death during WWI. Labour MP and anti-war campaigner Tony Benn was next. The Duchess of Devonshire’s funeral at Chatsworth House was a considerably different affair with estate staff lining the route, something I’d never seen before but saw again quite soon after at the Duke of Marlborough’s funeral.
I’m not really going to say much about the individual pictures or talk about the jobs themselves because I wanted to mention a few observations about the industry I work in that have come to the forefront this year.
Apparently cameras, especially the ones on iPhones, are so good nowadays that anyone can do this job. Local newspaper groups have been laying off experienced staff photographers on a catastrophic scale and replacing them with reporters using smartphones and User Generated Content (UGC). The NUJ was even offering courses for reporters on how to get the most out of their iPhones. After much uproar and hard work by photographer members the course was cancelled, but the principle was upheld that courses would be available for any member in any area so it’s only a matter of time until this raises it’s ugly head again. That aside, I think the move to using the work of visually literate professionals to using what is essentially amateur material is very dangerous, especially if that work is submitted from unknown sources and is difficult to verify. We’ve seen examples of photographs being used for propaganda in wars when they were taken in a totally different conflict. There was also an incident at Belmarsh Crown Court: Press Photographers and TV Cameramen, aware of the Precincts of Court Legislation, were positioned so as not to contravene the law. They had all agreed to stay back because the reporters congregating a foot from the door were worried that if anyone was seen with a camera by the door then they (the reporters) would get moved off the precincts and would not be able to question the ‘target’ as he left the building. When the ‘target’ came out the reporters all started filming and photographing on their phones, blocking the picture professionals they were actually working with. Their pictures were poor and not worthy of publication, which you would expect but the real problem here is their lack of understanding of the law. They were photographing and filming on court precincts, which is illegal. They were breaking the law because they are not trained to do the job. I think it’s fair to say that this sort of action is insulting to say the least. The fact is, and especially on local papers, the reporters have little or no choice about absorbing the role of a photographer (though one group, The NUJ Chapel at Newsquest Stourbridge, has just refused to do exactly that) you can’t really blame them. They are told to do it and there is not that much they can do about it.
The really big problem with reporter pictures and those sent in by the public, which local newspaper groups use at the expense of staff photography, is one of quality. The fact is most of the time these pictures are rubbish. They are often unsharp, frequently poorly exposed and almost always badly composed and as such add nothing to the publication, whether in print or online. The publication suffering is not a good thing, it means you lose readers and subscribers, which ultimately means you lose advertisers and revenue. If you lose advertisers what do you do ? Answer, you lose more jobs. This causes more damage to the publication and the spiral down to full closure becomes just a matter of time.
Essentially it is a problem with management. It seems the theory of increasing profit by cutting back is the only strategy many of our industry leaders rely upon. Often they are accountants who understand maths but really can’t get their heads around creativity. They don’t seem to see that people, readers, subscribers and advertisers don’t want a second rate product. Cutting back, making the people who create the product redundant whilst employing more accountants to justify the redundancies is quite obviously not the way forward, but these idiots are not going to sack themselves are they? They will however be the last rats standing as the industry sinks, at which point they’ll give themselves a big pay-off and move onto another industry to screw up.
One of the arguments to be thrown at photographers earlier this year was that the quality of cameras is such nowadays that really anyone can do the job… Which I’m afraid is true. However the natural conclusion of this logic is that surely the quality of pens and pencils is so good nowadays that anyone can be a writer… Also true, but there is a world of difference between a good writer/reporter and the average Joe on the street isn’t there?
True, anyone can take a picture and indeed anyone can write a story but the difference is all about the quality. It’s quality that readers, subscribers and advertisers want. A pen is like a camera, it is a tool. In the hand of someone who knows how to use it it becomes a whole lot more.
Anyway, here are some pictures that anyone with an iPhone could have taken….
See if you can spot the one that actually was.