Photograph as a permanent record of significant event

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by tkamiya, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I was recently invited to be a "photographer" for a significant event. My colleague (who's in his middle age) has a son (who is 20 something) who was going to propose to his girlfriend. I was there to record this "historical" event. The "son" wanted "good" photographs so his father asked me to do the honor. (which I gladly did) Oh, by the way, she said YES!

    I captured the "moment" and soon after, all the family gathered to congratulate the couple. At which point, all of their younger siblings came, pulled out their camera phones and stood right in front of me nearly completely obstructing my ability to take photographs. It was like they didn't see me (and surely, they didn't care) being a photographer trying to get a shot for the couple and the parents.

    Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised but, to be honest, I was. Apparently, it was far more important for them to capture this "significant event" and shoot it across the "net" to their friends so they know NOW. Megan has to hear before anyone else does because she's my BFF! or something like that... In 30 seconds or less, it was all over the social media and people started responding. I'm pretty sure, in few days, no one will care their friends got engaged....

    I dunno... that was a day I felt old. "They" have different priorities. Now, now, now... got to upload NOW and let the "friends" (quoted for a reason) know now!

    On the flip side, I developed an appreciation for my colleague and his young son's appreciation for a good photograph - to be treasured by them and displayed in the future family room.

    I've actually seen this at weddings, too. People pull out their phone and take a shoot and start tapping.... Somehow, I think priorities are messed up...
     
  2. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    welcome to the new world. At my office, the ogden utah daily newspaper, the fotogs have a cartoon up of some guy with a bunch of big cameras and long lenses around his neck telling a bunch of folks with p&s and camera phones to "please let me shoot, I'm a news photographer."

    "So are we" says everyone in the crowd.
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Ha!
     
  4. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I quit doing weddings a few years ago for that exact reason. People don't appreciate great photos and or photographers anymore. Everyone thinks they're a photographer.
     
  5. hdeyong

    hdeyong Member

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    Now you see why so many people today have the attention span of a gnat.
    I watched a girl the other day, walking down the sidewalk, talking on her cell phone, walk right into a pole.
    They live in a different world, and they can have it. How truly satisfying can anything be, when it's all immediate and disposable?
     
  6. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Some years ago I learned an acute lesson from a wedding pro, a guy who was getting $10K per wedding back in the '70s. He was married to my cousin at the time.

    I was standing around with my shiny new Yashica SLR at a family gathering, when he was able to point out to me that my picture would be significantly better by simply standing a few feet different to frame it entirely differently. He was right, of course.

    I decided he could do better with a box Brownie than I could with all the high tech stuff in the world. What he told me, that stuck, is "the photographer is not in the camera."

    Today many people do believe that the photographer is in the camera.
     
  7. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Smartphone cameras are ephemeral in nature. Pics can languish on those things (like mine!) for eons without seeing the light of day. They cheapen and debase the elegance of traditional studious/learned photography, but at the same time the spontaneity they allow in everyday life is unquestionably a boon that we are hopelessly entwined with. I use my smartphone for photographing things (including cameras, accessories and pricetags) while I go about doing further research, continually poking the phone's camera at whatever takes my fancy. Years ago it used to be a film camera and a LOT of film was wasted doing just those "shopping comparisons".

    There should however, be a rule at weddings that smartphones should not be used to usurp the authority or presence of an official photographer who is being paid to cover the event. The impingement is potentially very troublesome, interfering with the arrangement of the couple, guests, timing, facilities etc. In other words, they should keep well out of his/her way until the official photography is over and done with.
     
  8. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    People will always appreciate a good picture, and some will always believe that a fast picture with equipment technical enough (we all know that if the pictures aren't good we need a newer lens, right?). With the passing of time the good pictures will be more important and the crappy instant ones will vanish from memory.
    I rarely do weddings but when I do I try to scout the place in advance and plan the pictures ahead. There will be a crowd in your way so a small step ladder can be nice to have. You can also bring a camera that stuns the crowd and leave you room to work. A beautiful 8x10 field camera does the trick every time. No-one gets in the way of the shot and I have everybodies attention (you will however be photographed and sent across the net perhaps more than the happy couple but you will have to live with that).

    Perhaps I found it strange in your story that so many people were there to witness the proposal. If you knew about it in advance and they didn't they should hardly have time to react before the question was asked and answered.
     
  9. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Well, they left you capture "the moment", which is just a posed shot in fact. Then, after you captured it, they begun the usual habit. If they had prevented you from taking your picture, that would have been bad. After that, I would have gone near the couple and took a picture of all the crowd taking a picture.

    I'm not surprised she said YES, people don't stage all this to say NO. (We don't have "proposing" as an event with a photographer in this country, but no doubt we'll have it as soon as the voice reaches here that in America they have).
     
  10. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    If you want a subject to last as an image, make sure you use B&W and process it properly.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    t -

    i hope you stood on a high chair and not only photographed the happy family,
    but all their friends snapping photographs. even if you didn't, it sounds like you did a great job :smile:

    j
     
  12. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    It must be a localized custom... I've never heard of "proposing as an event" before... except those few who do it by hiring a plane to skywrite, or by having the proposal posted on the Jumbotron at a baseball game. Most people I know in America are more reserved than that.
     
  13. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    p.s. I'm glad she said "yes". An old friend of mine proposed to his girlfriend at his families Christmas celebration. Her response was to pull him aside so they could "have a private chat". He was scarred for many years... ifnot for the rest of his life.
     
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  15. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    The dynamic that the OP is pointing out is the same only different than what happened before digital and camera phones. I had stupid people stand in front and try to screw up my wedding photographs with their Instamatics back in the 70s and 80s. The difference was they had no outlet for their snapshots. Almost nobody wanted them. I used to sell prints to family and friends from the wedding coverage.

    Now with social media, those cameraphone pictures do have an outlet and a purpose. They are instantly sent to all the couples friends, posted on sites and enjoyed by dozens of people.

    To just dismiss this as static is missing the point. Although the professional may sell a couple of pictures to the family of the couple, the amateurs, have dispersed the news and stolen the show. Their "candid" pictures may be even far more engaging and fun than the pictures done by the pro.

    The world has shifted, the landscape has changed and it's difficult to see where professional photography fits into all this.
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I'm just glad I don't need to take pictures for money any more.
     
  17. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Maybe it is time to go back to fewer professionally-shot formals than the full-coverage, press-photographer approach... and let "them" fight it out amonst themselves until they self-destruct. I always marvel at my great-Aunt's wedding photo. There was one or two of her in her wedding gown... that was all. It is a well-light B&W studio shot and appears to have been shot with a large-format camera; it is still gorgeous after all of these years.
     
  18. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    As to how this whole thing transpired.... obviously, this was not a spontaneous proposal. A lot of planning went into this "moment". Without going into a lot of details, I'll just say this family is quite unique in a good way. He wanted his family and hers to be part of this milestone in his life. His girlfriend was the only one who didn't know exactly what was going to happen. The exact moment was a private one. We, the photographers, were hiding in open. We were careful as to not to ruin the moment. It worked as she didn't even realize we were there until he told her... oh, by the way.... :smile: It was obvious that she didn't mind.

    No, it's not a localized custom. It's just a unique family doing things in their own way.
    We did have a contingency plan just in case she didn't say yes....
     
  19. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    John,

    I can't show you the photograph as this is a personal image. But I did use people as a compositional frame and it worked. There's more than one way to.... (you know the rest)
     
  20. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I get asked to do these things occasionally too, but basically promise nothing, for the very reason you stated.

    It does bring back an interesting memory, though, of a friend of mine who got married in September 2009, I think just before 'everybody' had a way to post their snaps all over the internet within minutes. They had hired pro photographers to shoot the wedding. I remember two people moving around with two DSLRs each, snapping away, often in very rapid sequence of some compositions.
    I brought a Mamiya 645 with a 300mm lens on it and Delta 3200 film. I shot 30 frames while the pros shot (i'm not joking) 3,600 frames. I had a nice 11x14 print ready and framed for the couple next day, while the wedding photographers took weeks to have anything to present.

    So, whenever I get asked to 'attend with a camera' I tell them I charge nothing, and I will accept no direction. Then I process the film as soon as I get home, dry it, and slap it on the scanner. I pick a few good frames, and make decent web size scans of them, and email to those who asked me. And then I make a print or two. By moving quickly (for film) I can keep their interest alive, and have a print in their hands very rapidly. I know what size I'm going to print so I have pre-cut window-mats ready to use, and usually a frame too if they're willing to reimburse me for it. It works well, and usually people keep my print on the wall and at least walk past it every day. I do confess I take some satisfaction in that.
     
  21. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Thomas,

    I do pretty much the same way you do. I warn them ahead of time, the worst possible scenario is no photographs. I also accept no payment although I do accept modest token of appreciation if offered, but not cash. This is my hobby. I don't want money involved in it.

    I typically decline to attend wedding with full compliment of my cameras unless the hired photographer explicitly consents to it. If I do it, I want to do it right and to do that I need complete freedom which may interfere with a hired gun. I really don't like to do things I don't want anyone else to do to me. Like you, I may take simple stuff and take limited numbers. If I can get some worthwhile image, great, if not, I was never there to take a photograph in the first place.
     
  22. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Wedding photographers hate people like you.

    Imagine any other profession, and somebody showed up and was doing what the pro was hired to do, and undercutting their work.

    Imagine going to a doctor and while the doctor was consulting you, the friend that came along was offering advice and was diagnosing you.

    Photographers are the only profession where amateurs are able to be present and inject themselves in some way.
     
  23. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    People accepting no payment have ruined wedding photography for professionals just as much as all the digital do it on the cheap photographers.
    That whole era of making the photographer integral to the event and the memories is gone. The photographers making good money now on weddings
    are working for couples who have a lot of family money and they don't allow other photographers to shoot.
    The last wedding I did last year I had turned from my spot up front to catch the bride walking with her father, when I turned back to get her walking up the isle
    from my front position, there were at least 5 friends and family members kneeling in the isle in front of me to get the shot. That the shot she got.
    Rollei originally produced the Rolleiwide so that a wedding photographer could stand in front of people and still get it all in.
    If I was that woman who's proposal was turned into a family function with photographers, I would have changed my mind and said you gotta be kidding.
     
  24. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I never interfere with the pros, as I usually am confined to one single spot in the audience. And the pros still get paid. Why should they hate me? It's not like I advertise my services, I'm just there because people ask me to. They don't know my terms up front, it's only when I tell them that I take no payment and accept no direction that they realize they're getting something for free, and I ask them to tell their hired photographers that I will be there with my camera, taking a couple of photos, but keeping out of their way.

    I would think that if the pros did a better job they could beat me to the punch and use instant upload on web sites and social media.
     
  25. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I realize this is an internet forum. I didn't explain all the background either. If you knew this particular set of families and their dynamics and the couple involved, you'd know it wouldn't have been an issue. We (the photographers) did ask that question to the parent.
     
  26. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    The only "jobs" I accept are from people who would not or cannot have hired a pro to do the work. I did a wedding once, free. If we weren't there, there was going to be some disposable cameras on tables. The family was going to do "their best".