Demographics…

Daniel Sato delved into demographics in his latest post. An interesting concept…one I met when I was about his age and at his stage of experience. Bob Helms, chief photog at KXTV in Sacramento, was brave enough to bring me on board in 1974 as his first female photog after a casual comment: “If you don’t work out I guess we won’t be hiring any more women.” But those were the times.

And then I got this sage advice on how to cover demonstrations: “Shoot what represents the crowd.” Different in a way from what Daniel is being told. His blog looks at “mainstreaming” –

“…which was explained to me in a nutshell, was putting minorities in photos when possible, or better reflecting the diversity of the community.”

Two different concepts about how to visualize when shooting news. Bob was telling me to make sure I represented everyone…the elderly, the ugly, the young…not just the hunks and babes. He didn’t even get into race, although I know he meant that too.

Mainstreaming seems to mean to take the extra minute to make sure you get diversity…and Daniel’s argument is that he goes for the moment – the picture.

“I don’t really think I look at what a person’s ethnic background is when I am taking pictures, just what they are doing, what the composition looks like around them, etc.”

And while Daniel points out that he feels his paper does not represent minorities enough…others have argued that there is too much focus on minorities, out of proportion to their demographics in the community or specific segment of the community.

Daniel wonders if he now has to worry more about who he is photographing than what. I think Bob Helms’ advice may cover this issue better. Shoot what is there and represent what is there. Some days the balance will swing one way…some days another way.

Part of this issue comes from the assignment desk…what do they send you to cover. Are THEY focusing more on certain segments and ignoring others. Does your newspaper represent its community?

Two closing thoughts.
Had a discussion with a friend when we were working on a lighting video. He said too often in discussions photogs like to say they light dark skinned and light-skinned subjects the same when in truth there are lighting challenges for both that are unique. Racism in lighting. Do we want to discuss this?
And I (oh forgive me) erred from time to time from Bob’s advice. My own mother said she could tell when I shot a march/demonstration because there were more shots than usual of good looking guys. (Well, I did have to balance out the opposite tendency of an otherwise all-male staff.)

3 thoughts on “Demographics…

  1. Honestly, I could care less about buzzwords such as mainstreaming, web 2.0, information center, etc.

    I am just surprised that we now have notes in our photo assignments to make sure that we know that we can’t have X number of minorities in our prom galleries.

    And, while your misspelling of my name as Soto rather than Sato was a mistake based on two names put together, more often than not it is because people actually think my last name is in fact, Soto. Come to think of it, there is a multimedia presentation with that mistake still up on the Register’s site… I will have to get someone to fix that….

  2. Yeah…my aging brain does play games with my fingers when I’m typing. But you are correct in saying folks get your name wrong. Probably the reason I let it slip through is because I do have a friend whose last name is Soto. By the way, my maiden name was Mog. Try explaining THAT to people.

    And I agree … notes such the the one you find surprising make a (mistaken) assumption that the paper/photographers have done or are doing something wrong. I caught a lot of stuff flying when I did a story (probably fifteen years ago) on water conservation and used a bi-racial couple who explained what they did to conserve. Got a very nasty call from some citizen saying we did it on purpose just to make their relationship seem normal.

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