Wednesday, December 26, 2012
What's Wrong with This Image?
So I get a Twitter recommendation, "Suggestions similar to Black Star," and one of the is the Wall Street Journal photo Twitter feed. Are you old enough to get the problem there? Traditionally, the Wall Street Journal didn't have photos. At all. Zero. Even to the point that I used to joke that I wanted to have business cards printed advertising myself as a staff photographer for them, and then see how long it took me to get busted.
But of course it's all just part of the changing media world. For a long time, for example, I've carried around a note to myself to blog about Chelsea Clinton and Ashton Kutcher. Not that they're an item or anything (now there's an image, isn't it?) No, it's because they symbolize a lot of what I think is going wrong in the media world.
Chelsea (who I refer to by first name -- if I must refer to her at all -- to distinguish her from her distinguished parents) was recently looking for, I guess, a purpose in life. Simply getting a job was insufficient. So she had a meeting with Steve Capus, the president of NBC News. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Capus said he had met with Ms. Clinton and had a long conversation that began with a simple question. 'I asked her: "What are you interested in doing?"'
How many things are wrong with those two sentences? Why is the president of a network news division meeting with her? Why isn't she meeting with, at best, the executive producer of a show, someone who might actually be expected to be doing hiring? And I guess the question of qualifications or some sort of vetting is unnecessary. Just look at how the meeting began. Reading that quote over again always makes me quiver with fury.
And now Ashton Kutcher thinks, or at least acts like he thinks he's a photographer. Perhaps he's a better actor than I give him credit for (though still waiting for evidence of that from his work). No, he's on my naughty list for doing Nikon ads. Now perhaps I should blame the nabobs of Nikon for this concept, but many of the ads are based on how he, with his smug good looks, is just as good as the pros because he uses fancy Nikon cameras.
In one ad, he saunters into a fashion show, where he gets marvelous pictures of the runway models while amusingly blocking the pros. In another, he visits a wedding, where he makes dozens of charming photos while the actual wedding photographer is nowhere to be seen. In all, of course, he smirks and sashays about with that coolest frat boy overconfidence.
In the end, this is my point: there are professionals who do this stuff, people who have worked a long time to become journalists and photographers. I fail to see how being Chelsea Clinton (even conceding that she may be very smart) gives her any ability to do anything in any form of media. And it should be no surprise that she quickly foundered in the dummied up job Capus found for her.
And while I can see the concept behind the Nikon campaign (Buy our cameras and make better pictures, duh), the whole scene creates a coarsening of life. Go ahead, block a real fashion photographer at a Paris show and see what happens to you. I'm betting the next day's headlines would describe how American actor was found beaten in alleyway.
We work hard at what we do, perhaps harder than many other professions. In news and news photography, the rule is: What have you done for me lately? Either keep producing top notch work, or you'll slowly drift into second-rate jobs. And if you want that first-rate job, well you have to show you can produce at that level ... before you get to that level.
So who's job did Chelsea Clinton take? What hard working young reporter spent years aiming at the network, only to be told: "Sorry, the president of the news division called."
And if Ashton Kutcher thinks he's going to step in front of me and block my picture, then make it all okay with a winsome smile, he better protect his knees ...