Lydia in quality control. Why it's good to leave the "entourage" at home sometimes...

I constantly come across photographers who can't seem to work on their own. They need assistants at their sides even for the most rudimentary of jobs. In some quarters it feels like a fashionable thing to have plenty of people around to get the photographer coffee or a juice box. I can imagine that some would never consider carrying their own gear or opening their own doors. And, of course, they would be lost without someone to keep constant tabs on their smartphone to alert the photographer instantly if the need arose for an emergency Instagram posting...

Beyond their own entourages many photographers absolutely need the minute by minute supervision of art directors and clients to help guide them through the process of.....taking photographs.  How do I know this? I talk to other members of these photographer's teams, like the digital techs.  The prevailing trend is to shoot everything tethered to the biggest screen one can find. With a tethered monitor the group centric photographer can crowdsource things like: taste, vision, style, color preferences and even simultaneous post production looks. Imagine being in a creative business without ever having to make a creative decision on your own. How marvelous (dripping sarcasm...). 

I can just imagine the scene when a client whimsically decides to proffer the idea of shooting outside, on a city street. "Can you imagine it?" she might exclaim, "We could have the models walking briskly down the sidewalk--- and get this--- they would be holding our products!!!!" The entourage squeals with delight as the second first assistant calls a rental house to source a digital tech cart with bigger wheels....maybe even a servo motor for self propulsion.  Another second second assistant calls to make sure the digital tech's chair can be attached as well. 

Now we have ten or twelve or more people moving down the side walk with two models. The photographer is shooting and then craning his neck to see what he got on the monitor as it rolls by on the cart with big wheels. His girlfriend and a series of first, second and third assistants chime in to either critique or to make "oooooohing" and "ahhhhhing" sounds of mystified approval while the digital tech struggles to both add a post production "look" to the material while correcting the exposure ("no real artist understands how to use a meter!") and simultaneously uploading selected images to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One layer of the entourage has their cellphones at the ready, doing behind the scenes photos of the "team" working while a second layer of second assistants snaps them snapping selfies as well. 

Doesn't really matter how good or bad the photographs are as everything is destined to go along to a retoucher who will pay for his new boat by fixing the mess the entourage created. Always sad though when no one in the entourage pays attention to the cross walks and the digital imaging cart gets creamed by a bus. Thank God the fourth assistant called the rental house to specify an ejector chair for the the digital tech. Oh, photography has become so much more difficult and unpredictable since the invention of digital imaging. 

Written after realizing that the photos above came from a project I did in New York city with no entourage. Just a bag of film, a couple of cameras, a light meter and a few lights. The ad agency didn't send along an art director. The client didn't demand a stylist or a make-up person. Was it really so easy to do good, fun work back then? Yes. I generally find that having an entourage of any size doubles the amount of time anything takes, homogenizes all creativity, quadruples the budgets and puts the photographer into a situation where he has to listen to inane chatter all day long. 

If I had to work this way I'd sign up for a different occupation. Preferably one that could be done far from the madness of group think. #teamworkSucks


Butchicito said...

Lovely script for a very funny short film - bam, creamed by a bus! Seriously, I'm reminded of a time when I worked briefly at Stanford University after my writing biz took a nosedive following the tech crash of 2001. The university was changing its accounting systems, and we were forced to endure hours of dreary Powerpoint presentations to bring us up to speed. I found that by closing my eyes I could make much better sense of the presentations, and I realized that Powerpoint is indeed, as so many have pointed out, the Devil's own invention for dividing our attention and making us fail.

I recognize two tendencies in myself as a photographer. One says, "If I can just make it a bit more complicated, the photos will be oh so much better - if I can just go out on a limb and spend perilously on that shiny piece of new gear." Meanwhile, the wiser, older, experienced part of me is saying, "Forget that, pick up the camera and go deep - learn every damn function until it's a butter-slick part of your brain's circuitry." And of course, guess which approach yields the best pix.

christer3805 said...

Sarcasm? Exaggeration? Nothing of the kind. Just clear writing.

Gato said...

I often see young photographers talk about how they need to "build a team" before they even really know how to run the camera. Seems sort of backwards, but maybe I'm just getting old.