One photo only, medem

Thursday, January 05, 2017

There seems to be a gap in the thinking and acting capacity of people in the creative arts, at least here in India. As an editor, who commissions works bi-weekly for the assignment I'm toiling my hours on, it comes to me as a total surprise that the freelance industry is filled with total nutcases. Much more interesting than the industry of single men, looking for unsuspecting women to have fun with (more on that in a separate post). It's possibly easier to find a soulmate than a photographer, who can work well and does not require baby-sitting.

I have the (mis)fortune of dealing with over ten photographers for one of the projects I am assigned at work. As a visual researcher, and someone who's trained to critique images, I'm on a lookout for images which are no-nonsense, well framed, complete with colours that can make you weak in the knees. Okay, I know none of that is taught at any art/design school. But, it's really all about understanding the aesthetics, or well the idea of having a sensibility when it comes to art. If not that, it involves a lot of instinct and learning over the time. Working with designers and publishers help a lot in developing that eye.

The photographers, available to be hired, are somehow least concerned with the paragraph above. To them, a good picture often constitutes of saturated colours, under/over exposed shots and cluttered frame. I know this because I was once there, trying too hard with a camera in my hand. The autonomy of a digital camera is that it makes you believe you could be a NASA scientist, just by the virtue of these two possibilities- a) take as many shots as you would like, of the same fucking frame, because your first shot is crap and as are the next 13, and b) tinker around during post-processing.

As an unsaid rule of something that I've learnt at my workplace, editing is the last thing we would want to with our pictures. It's something I am unlearning, as I've been trained as a filmmaker at large with softwares in front of me. Editing, in filmmaking can rescue your project. In photography, editing is how you usually ruin an image.

By editing, I do not mean basic colour correction or crop. Editing, at large in the 2010s and further on refers to a phenomena where you mutilate a shot to the point, it no longer resembles the original piece you've taken images of. It could be anything, a cell phone image of a burger you had while celebrating your friend's 3 month anniversary at a job or your badly composed selfie taken with the help of a selfie stick. It may sound like I am bitter but believe me, I'm pro selfies, as long as you get your angles right and don't cover half of my screen with your unshapely nose.

I digress, but coming back to work and learning things, images do not need editing unless they're a mess. It's taken me years to figure that out, and by the time I did, I kept my camera in the store. I traded that for a keyboard instead, because words come easier than the discipline. Discipline that is required to shoot without falling back to post-process the image, until it appeals to your naked eye on the cell-phone screen.

Which brings me to my conundrum of hiring people. Is everyone I come in contact with smoking pot or is it my luck wherein I encounter total morons? Perhaps a mix both. What's become a regular pattern is that if I ever go in the public domain to hire a photographer, invariably, there'd be a curated set of miscellaneous images thrown my way. Which is, not a bad thing per say, but it can backfire when you don't do a decent job with either. The compilation of shots for most photographers in 2017 are shots which were a stroke of sheer luck.

As an artist, if you cannot demonstrate your art on demand, especially when you're hired for that/commissioned to do that, it's nothing but farcical.

I would understand if you were not given a brief, but despite that, you do a shoddy job at it. You're hired and paid by the hour for the project because the organization deems it fair that you deserve your worth. Albeit, not entirely, but whatever they can afford. Don't forget, this is book-publishing we are talking about. One of the last standing, financially diminishing industries in the world at the moment. I say this because I make peanuts as well. Unlike any other freelancer, I don't make enough on good days and go hungry on bad ones. I make one tenth of what a freelancer makes, with triple the amount of work than a freelancer does in an odd month. It's a bad economic decision for a peaceful well-being. Or till whenever it lasts.

That, ofcourse is the first problem. The accidental photographer, then, continues to live in denial about the critique of the image. "Do tell me what do you think about it.", they'll say. When you do actually tell them, in the most polite words, that their image sucked dead monkey balls and what the actual fuck was that album and that it was nowhere close to the brief they were given, they come back with the following:

1) You may not have liked it but believe me, I think they're good. Everyone thinks they're amazing, including my dog Rocky.
2) The images are the best I could do. You should have seen the circumstances they were taken in.
3) That subject wasn't giving me any time. She just gave me 15 minutes.
4) If you want me to re-shoot, you have to pay me again as it will be accounted as another shoot

Each of these statements above is something which I've encountered in the last two months since I began to get my hands dirty with commissioning. When I was hired as a researcher, I was aware liaisoning with the photographers would be a part of my profile. And being trained in photography I knew what I would be talking, it only felt like a breeze when I accepted this position. However, it's come as a total shock that just about anyone with the skill to click a button on their cellphone/DSLR (on auto) claims to be the next Dayanita Singh and Raghu Rai.

Fortunately (or not), the organization I'm involved with, has a long list of photographers who have worked with us in the past. Yet, from time to time, the schedules and locations demand new photographers. For whatever odd reason it is, you do go ahead and publically post about the requirement.

And then you realize, what a horrible mistake it has been.

Just about anyone who owns a DSLR writes to you, on Facebook and proceed to send a Facebook friend request because you made the mistake of inviting attention your way on Facebook.

This reminds of how on a dating app once I ticked yes to "casual sex". 15 minutes into downloading the app, my inbox was overflowing with messages. One of the guys who I was chatting with at that point piped, "what else did you expect ticking yes to casual sex on a dating app?"

Insofar as saying yes to casual sex as a column labels you as someone who wants unsolicited dick pictures, similarly, posting about your requirement for a photographer on a page for arts opportunities brings you home to friend requests at large. From people you don't know, and definitely don't want to know.

Why I'm devoting my energy towards ranting about friend requests from photographers is because none of these guys think before they speak, in their case write.

A lady proceeded to send me multiple messages, mails and asked for my number based on that post on hiring for the photographer. Her claim to fame is having done a solitary assignment on Rolls Royce's vintage model for a never heard of automobile magazine.

I don't mean to sound like a snob, despite the handle and it could very well be her desperate circumstances that she's trying so hard to lap the assignment but instead of devoting your energies into typing mindless bullshit on your CV with the words such as 'memories', 'painting', 'innovation', 'dreams', perhaps focus on your craft.

Another individual sent in three, and I would like to repeat, THREE shots of a model and explained she's a fashion photographer. Fair enough. I requested for more samples because three shots from the same shoot cannot tell you a lot. The mail I received was beautiful.

"Do you want stalk images or want me to shoot your product?"

Well, I do not want stalk or stock images and neither do I want you to take images of products. I would like you to frame your fucking sentence as a fucking respectable freelancer and come back maybe.

Till then, I'll chase the photographer who hasn't sent me the work despite a million reminders, cause she's too cool for my mails. 

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