I was recently asked to shoot video as part of a wedding I photographed for a friend. I produced about sixty seconds worth of video footage, because I simply didn’t think about shooting video. (Everything turned out fine.) This started me thinking about the increasing demand on photographers to cross into moving images as the technology on cameras improves and my fight to educate my clients on the difference between the two.
I am an editorial photographer, meaning I attempt to accurately capture the events I witness and tell their story. I strongly prefer candid shots where the subject is neither posed nor necessarily aware they of my presence. I feel candid best express events as they occur, and is an artistic choice made as the photographer. I can and do, make different choices depending on circumstance, but my style consistently reflects my aesthetic preference.
Why is the relevant? As a still photographer, I work in a narrow window of time, usually seconds from spotting a subject to making the exposure. In the image above, I noted the little girl with her face paint and fairy wings riding on her father’s shoulders. In the space five seconds I needed to place myself for a clear shot, compose the image, make exposure corrections and take the image before her expression changed or she turned away from me. This is actually a rather large window compared to the fast breaking action of sports footage or conflict photography where an image window is tenths of a second.
Video, however, is about the unfolding of events over time. I cannot speak to the creative choices a videographer might make to accomplish a shot like, or whether they even found it worthy to capture. Their process requires a completely different way of looking at the world. It is probable I am a reflection of the technology current to my learning the craft. Before the advent of dual mode digital cameras the issue of video was irrelevant. It certainly never came up learning on a 35mm film camera.
Nor is this the only technology creep forcing modern artists to generalize their skills. People expect photographers to complete massive retouching projects bordering on being a graphic designer. One client expected me shoot their set, retouch the photos AND create a website to host the images all for the same fee. (“What? It’s all photography?”) I declined the job. In film’s day, it was not unheard of for photographers to use different people for retouching and printing, primarily in fashion or commercial photography but even greats like Cartier-Bresson used a printer.
I know I sound like an old man kvetching on the sad state of the world, but something is wrong in a world without specialists. Being good at an art or craft takes times and practice, diluting that time and practice by splitting your effort makes all your efforts suffer. The idea of “it’s all really the same thing, isn’t it?” devalues the hard work and talent of the creator and implies being VERY good at one thing is less important than “kinda OK” at many crafts. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with the philosophy of the inestimable Major Charles Emerson Winchester III: “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”
The world is changing, and those who come after me will likely look at this as just part of The Job. Nor is this to say the two arts cannot meet in the same person, just not in me. I like it that way.