Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Not All Smiles And Sunshine

I can honestly say that I've loved some of my assignments while enjoying nearly all of the others. I say "nearly" because there have been a few where "the wheels fell off" and the assignment ran sideways. I still managed to bring back a photo, but had some misgivings about them afterward.

 Publicists: Most fundraisers have publicists, or at the very least somebody who functions in that capacity. Larger organizations have full or part time positions, while smaller events will have a volunteer from within the organization. Their duties include writing and distributing press releases, coordinating access to the event, and helping smooth the way for visiting members of the media. Several large charities have delightfully helpful publicists, and do whatever they can to see that I get the shots I need, since a better photograph improves  the chances the shot will run. Certainly their attentiveness is incentive for me to shoot the additional frames that are sometimes needed to refine the image I will ultimately submit.

Well, If You Must: This has not always been the case.  I received the assignment to photograph at a landmark mansion that was the venue for a lecture/fundraiser.  As always, I did some research into the estate's history, and I was most impressed. It  was first occupied in 1916 by an heiress to a major railroad fortune. When I checked in with my contact, I received a forwarded quotation from the event sponsors:
  • (Contact) will meet the photographer  in the courtyard and stay with him at all times. He’s free to take his pictures and then can leave since the only rooms that will be open at first are the Salon (coffee served) and the ballroom (lecture).
  • Any text written with the photo should emphasize (event sponsors) not the (foundation) site specifically, just that (event sponsors) hosted an event at the (foundation).  The publicity is for us not for the (foundation).
This is the first time I've ever been sent so restrictive a set of guidelines and had considered cancelling the shot on principle, but I had made a commitment to my editor and my contact to show up,  and my reputation for reliability was more important than the dismissive attitude of the event sponsor. I think my contact was a bit put off by the wording, and forwarded the message as a way of distancing herself from the event sponsors.

The shot was made, submitted, and finally published. And yes, I got over it...
Photo #1
The One That Got Away:  I was photographing a toy give-away at a local charity. Under these circumstances, I normally don't photograph children, since accepting a gift from a charity may be seen as an unwanted intrusion. However, this child started playing with one of the Hula Hoops, and he responded well to my suggestion to "show some attitude" (Photo #1). I decided to shoot first, and ask questions later. Since he wasn't clinging to an adult, I assumed that he was the child of an adult volunteer. 

When I finished shooting, I asked him if his Mother or Father was here, he said "Yes", and pointed them out. I went over and introduced myself, and asked if I could submit the photo for possible publication. When I told her I would need her son's name, Mom hesitated, and declined the offer. I gotta tell you, my heart sank. True, I could have insisted that I had the "right" to make the photograph, but any attempt of argue my case had the potential for some hurt feelings.

I still thought the concept was good, so I set about trying to duplicate it. As it turned out, the event supervisor remembered me from other photos I had made at the facility, and as we started to talk, I found out that his own grandson was volunteering. I showed him my now unusable photo, and asked for permission to use his grandson as a model for a second attempt. Austin (at the left) was reluctant to do it, but agreed to do it if his friend Johnny (right) could join him.
Photo #2
I knew that they needed to be staggered to add some depth to the photo. Instead of choosing the "front man", I asked the two to decide for themselves, using "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to determine who stood in front. This being settled, that started hooping, and I started shooting. The second shot (Photo #2) managed to salvage the flavor of the event,  but the first image was the better shot. But since I couldn't use it, a little improvisation was called for.