Having worked with a few headstrong photographers, I know they’re essential to telling a great story. At the same time the best ones have a way of going rogue. Many times I’ve sat back at my desk, looking over my notes and the pictures, thinking these don’t match.
I always blamed myself for failing to communicate strongly enough what the story was, but frankly, sometimes it changes as you report it. Let me put it this way: I’ve written some convoluted captions to explain why the person in the picture is beaming and blowing bubbles in a green meadow, but the story says she’s suicidally depressed about the depletion of the Oglala aquifer. (Or, y’know, whatever.)
Anyway, if I think about it, the photographer who has bugged me the most over the years is Richard Avedon. Love his celebrity portraits, love his fashion work, hated — HATED — his series set in the American West, where he took some pretty unconventional-looking people and stood them up in front of his famous seamless backdrop and turned them into freaks for his New York friends to groove on.
You may sense the depth of my feelings on this subject.
Mary Ellen Mark occupies a different place. I find many of her portraits as unsettling as Avedon’s, but without the note of mocking condescension. Although can anyone, especially a woman, look at the first photo in this series and not think, “Put down that camera and get that child to a responsible maternal figure, for God’s sake.”
Mark, who died this week, was probably best known for the “Street Wise” project, about homeless street kids in Seattle, which started as a photo feature for Life magazine — man, just writing those words feels impossibly nostalgic — and later became a documentary. It wasn’t easy to watch, listening to these kids talk about turning tricks and retrieving pizza out of dumpsters, even as you know the situations they left behind were even worse.
And then, of course, they grew up.
Photography is such an intimate medium, and it’s so easy to tip the viewer from a guest looking in through the fourth wall to a peeping tom. I think Susan Sontag may have touched on this subject a time or two.
So. Bloggage to get to.
Bob Schieffer says he’s worried about the decline of local journalism. That makes two of us:
Less than a third of all newspapers in the country assign a reporter — part time or full time — to cover statehouses, according to the Pew study. Almost nine in 10 (86 percent) of local TV stations have no part-time or full-time correspondent covering the statehouse.
I’m less concerned about TV, because most stations’ coverage of serious news has always been spotty and not the sort of thing you should rely on to be informed. Many manage to park two or three highly paid butts on a couch for an extended morning show of utter crap content, so cry me a river over that one. But on newspapers, he’s absolutely right. Fort Wayne once had a two-person Indy bureau — one for sports, one for the legislature. That dwindled to a freelancer, then a go-when-you-can staffer, then let-the-AP-handle-it. That’s no way to cover anything.
What the hell just happened in Nebraska? I’m still puzzled, although I think I get it: GOP corrections reform meets Democrats’ traditional opposition to capital punishment. Amazing.
Wednesday I was walking to lunch with my colleagues, and a large semi crossed our path, the side emblazoned, “Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour.” She plays at Ford Field on Saturday. That is one long setup. I’ve said many times I would rather see two guys play guitar in a smoky nightclub than go to your average stadium/arena show, and that stands. Tickets for “general admission standing” for her “B stage” — I expect that’s the one where she walks a plank into the audience and gives low-fives to the clamoring minions — are $200. Nosebleed is $50, most others well north of there. Yikes.
Oh, and Basset, I used Coastal for my last eyeglass purchase, but I knew what I wanted and what looks good on me. YMMV. Good luck.