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…as I discovered recently.
As I ease into retirement and (hopefully) back into shooting the occasional video gig, I’ve been updating my resources. Got the thinknews site up with my info for potential clients seeking my services. Working on my linkedin page and other connection sites. And moseyed on over to NPPA to make sure my information was current on their Find a Photographer site, when I noticed the following:
Now I’d obviously been to this page before, but a continuing discussion on b-roll about whether NPPA adequately serves it broadcast members made me pause and really look at the wording on this page.
It is generally accepted that a photographer is a still shooter (even though a photographer is “one who draws with light). That was pause #1.
When I read the next section I nearly choked laughing. What the heck is “video photography”?!! Video shot by a still photographer of course. Which explains why they put in “video editing.”
Once I had my breath back, I moved down to “Who specializes in a particular area of photojournalism.” Hmmm…no mention of VIDEOjournalism.
Now what you can’t see, unless you are a member signing onto your account is the section for photographic specialities, which specifies “leave blank if you are not a photographer.”
This went from funny to WHOA in a split second.
So it was back to b-roll to air my complaint. Yeah…we all do that when frustrated, but rarely does it get beyond the steam blowing stage. I didn’t expect a fast response from one of NPPA’s finest,
Vice-President Michael Borland(damn I hate making mistakes – age is my excuse and I’m sticking with it. That and Borland was part of the electronic mix.) past NPPA President Steve Sweitzer. He held me accountable for my remarks and even asked for input on how to rework and reword the “Find a Photographer” section. So a brief flurry of electronic exchanges ensued and it looks as if changes may be in the air. The only point of dispute may be what the heck to call a very diverse group of folks who sling an equally diverse batch of cameras…everything from consumer to broadcast quality video gear and state of the art still equipment. I tossed out “visual journalist” as a starting point…it’s gonna be fun watching the process and finding out what the consensus is.
I knew there was a reason for being in NPPA…monoliths have ears and actually listen.
You’re never too old to learn…and I picked up a new term this week, thanks to a request for a critique on b-roll. I’m not gonna post the comments made – you can look them up yourself.
But the new term is “controlled shoot.” Or as the cameraman says, aka “staging.”
And as if that weren’t bad enough…it was followed a few days later by a posting titled “Fun staging.”
The CS/controlled shoot video was something I would imagine a lot of camerafolk get trapped into in some way or another. Short on time…there is NOTHING happening visual, and somehow a visual story has to be turned.
So in this case, the photog asked the subject (a marathon runner) to take a run around for the camera. I’m not sure how much CS “controlled” that shoot – if he just shot the guy running or directed each shot. But – as CS admits – it is staging. Which is frowned upon in news because it is not what is actually happening. It is redone/rehashed/done only for the camera.
Now in the case of “Fun staging” the entire video was staged. And I don’t mean asking for something to be repeated for the camera. This was staged as in have people acting out an entire scenario for the camera…shot by shot. As if it were a movie. Not just a step beyond a controlled shoot – but an entire leap into a fantasy world that was created JUST FOR THIS STORY.
Ummmm….can I have a platter of the “good ole days” please?
Addendum: For you students out there – staging is considered unethical because it does not show what really occurred. Every news photog’s dream is to shoot actualities. What really is happening. Here are some examples of staging that are oh so wrong.
Case #1 (this happened way back in the early 70′s) Photog misses an immigration event where a man is arrested by INS. He asks for it to be repeated. So the man is released by INS…runs back to his family, who cries in joy at what they see as his permanent release. INS walks over (camera IS rolling), grabs and handcuffs him and takes him away, to the unhappy cries of the confused family. Great video. A total lie due to staging.
Case #2 (hmmm…think this one is late 70′s) Reporter does controversial interview. Later – AFTER the subject is gone, he tells the cameraman he wants to reshoot a few questions. Loaded questions which were not quite what he asked the subject. In this case the cameraman told the news director and the reporter was fired. Good call by both the photog and ND.
Case #3 Reporter wants to insert a track/question into a story. The question is NOT what he asked the subject. Photog refuses. Reporter argues that subject would agree to this change and calls her. She agrees it is okay, but photog still refuses to do the edit. News director is called in, gets story and SUPPORTS the reporter. Photog offers to quit. Bad call by ND.
The unfortunate truth is that there is a certain amount of staging tolerated in news. Every time you sit someone down, set up lights, hang a mike on them – you are staging. The lights and mike and camera are NOT part of the everyday life of most folks. When a still photog wants to get in super-close to a subject, they tell them to ignore the camera. Guess what? Staging. (Could YOU ignore a camera just inches from YOUR face?) And so it goes. The aim is to avoid obvious staging. This includes everything from the subtle requests to “to it again for the camera” or “wait while I move the camera” to the over the edge completely fabricated and exclusively for our news only shots.
Ethics are not laws written in stone. They are (hopefully) morals seared into the heart of every newsperson, guiding them through a treacherous world of daily deadlines and pressures. And on the days you lose a little, you try to make up by straightening your backbone a bit more for the next day.
I should know. Been there/done that.