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[Viewfinder BLUES] The Story of Us

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  • [Viewfinder BLUES] The Story of Us

    Insider. Outsider. Gate-Crasher. Ghost. The television news photographer has to be all these things - often within the course of a single shift. Nature dictates that we don't fit in. So we lurk around the edges, training our spotlights on the triumphant and befuddled while we think, mostly, about lunch. I suppose it's always been that way. Shortly after the founding fathers fashioned the first TV test pattern out of a stolen Indian blanket, it occurred to someone in a suit that a new breed was needed. Up from the dust, the first photog rose. No one bothered to learn his name, but it became clear to all that this restless, jaded beast would come in damn handy. So the suits sent this new creature to the edge of happenstance, armed only with heavy glass and the odd notion that they'd be welcome anywhere. It shouldn't have worked. But as their lack of luck would have it, vagabonds, stragglers and the criminally insouciant took a liking to the lens. Soon, a craft of sorts was forged - one that required patience, a steady hand and, tragically, cargo shorts.

    I should know, for I count myself among their diminishing number. We all have different origin stories. Some are failed athletes, relegated to the sidelines of life. Others are film school nerds who lacked tuition or A/V geeks with more free time than friends. Me - I blame Steve Bottoms. It was that smug bastard who showed up to my house one late 80's day with a newfangled camcorder under his arm. Dude let me look through it and I was hooked. Something about the viewfinder's soothing blue glow drew me in and I've been loitering in its dying light ever since. Years later, I would wander into my first TV station and bluster my way into a minimum wage position I was in no way qualified for. Looking back, I should have aimed higher than the six o clock news. But when you're 22 and high on access, that boat anchor on your shoulder feels damn near like a pair of wings. Since that day, I've driven ****ty cars slathered in peacocks, eyeballs and foxes. I've floated over school buses, flattered world leaders and attended more sudden deaths than I can possibly recall.

    But a strange thing happened on the path to enlightenment. The business changed - or to be more precise - never stopped changing. Cameras shrank, as did budgets. Edit bays turned into laptops lumbering live trucks became magic backpacks. But nothing transformed more than the men and women beneath those unblinking lenses. News crews of two shed a full sized human. Folks who once refused to pick up anything heavier than a microphone or mirror grew Sonys of their own. Kids mastered the art of editing on their parent's iMacs and the rise of Youtube made it okay for video to look like ****. These days, your average camera scrum features more polished presenters than true blue news shooters. But don't get me wrong. Some of these youngsters - with their tiny cameras and winning grins are exceptionally talented. Most, however, are not and while this bothers me more than it does you, it seems to upset viewers not one whit. The viewers we have left, anyway. Which leads me to this existential question...

    "Stay Classy, Greenville!"
    If a tree falls in the forest and the news crew that comes to cover it consists of a single Millennial with a camera the size of a baked potato, does anyone (besides a few funky photogs) care? Most probably not and those that do can trace their ancestry directly to those gasbags who lamented the loss of the buggy whip industry circa 1908. That ain't me. Hell, some of my best friends are Multi-Media Journalists! That's what we call One Man Bands these days. And while that term is probably considered impolitic these days, I utter it with reverence. For way back in the early 90's, I considered myself just that and I have the embarrassing pictures to prove it. So don't take my diatribe as (just) the ramblings of a soon to be artifact. I got much love for anyone who points a lens at something unplanned. It's a weird way to want to spend your day, let alone every moment of your working life. But I can tell you from experience that it's a helluva method if you wanna become the most interesting person at the party.

    At least that's what we tell ourselves...