It’s sure been a turbulent May in terms of press photography subject matter. A month which began poetically with the inauguration of its first female Poet Laureate in its 341 year history and ended tragically with the loss of over 200 people in an Air France flight which disappeared over the Atlantic ocean. And what of all that’s in between? May has seen events which have had the potential to inspire, motivate and pay out to the many talented press photographers eager to find their next big photographic hit.
On a more optimistic note, this month also saw the crème de la crème of the world’s film industry forming an orderly queue at the Cannes Film Festival photo booth where a gaggle of well-dressed snappers, who mischievously loiter outside yachts and cafes, take what can be described as glorified passport photos. Brangelina, Tarrantino, Stone, Loach, Myers, Versace, Clinton – the list goes on – gave us their best sides whilst the up-and-coming such as Andrea Arnold, Lily Cole, Robert Pattinson and João Salaviza created metaphorical mood boards inside their heads to discover a way of grabbing the light and the world’s attention. A more novel promotional approach to photo calls was observed when Sacha Baron Cohen wore possibly the worst swimsuit in the history of swimsuits to promote his film Borat. However this year, possibly due to the credit crunch, no such similar events took place (sigh!). These are always a good photography portfolio filler. Maybe, next year.
Spring lessons: One thing we can learn is how a press photographer decides which job to pursue and which elements to capture. Although it has been a very tough month for many of the UK’s MPs due to the odd political gaff, here and there, as well as a series of dodgy expenses claims exposed by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, it’s potentially been a great month for dedicated political photographic movers and shakers; those willing to patiently wait outside Downing Street ready to snap a government document hanging out of an MP’s satchel.
It’s also been a pretty busy month for photographers who have been hiking their camera bags and ladders around constituencies on the hunt for MPs, even stooping to using pap techniques and setting up camp outside their homes. It has also been a particularly lucrative month for those press photographers who have those elusive and exclusive one-to-one shots of politicians in happier times when the sun shone down on their career without exposing those moats and ponds that need fixing.
Tips for keeping on top of the pack: This month has highlighted the fact that those political snappers willing and able to keep their trigger happy finger on the political pulse can, more than likely, reap rewards over time. Press photographers give themselves a fighting chance of seeing their pictures splattered across the front page of rags around the country if they are ‘in the know’ and
- have an understanding of who is, or who could be, hot and who’s not
- find themselves in the right place at the right time – for example in the case of covering the Swine Flu outbreak
- portray politicians in a way that will meaningfully tie the image to a running theme or a particular breaking story
- have already put in the work and have built a large archive of images of politicians over the last decade.
The last group can now sit back and, hopefully, watch as political archive photo sales roll on in.
The future: Things are still tough economically, however, there have been shoots of optimism amongst city pundits and the like. Could this be the beginning of the end of the recession? Either way, even though sales may still be low, magazines are being scrapped, advertising revenue is down and publications are paying less for a picture than they have for two years – one thing’s for sure. There’s a wealth of photogenic ammunition out there to chase and perhaps it’s you that snaps that great and timeless image – one that can be used over and over again. Now there’s optimism for you.
Marvin Woodyatt, May 2009