Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Grip and Grin: Assignments that make photographers want to scream, part 1

There are certain assignments that make most photojournalists groan when they come across the picture desk. It's not that we're above photographing certain subjects. Rather, it's that we care and want to use the medium to it's best advantage. Space is tight in most publications these days, so publishing photographs that are purely informational really isn't the best way to use that precious space. And sometimes the information recorded really isn't very interesting or relevant.

Not every assignment is going to produce award-winning photographs, and sometimes we photograph certain events to foster relationships with important organizations in the community. But settling for lackluster or cliche photographs is usually the result of a lack of time before publication, a lack of planning, or editors that just don't understand how photographs communicate.

One of the most egregious offending assignments is what we call the "Grip and Grin." I'm sure we've all seen them: check presentations, plaque passings, award ceremonies, ground breakings, people shaking hands and smiling for the camera, etc. Why so offensive? Outside of the people in the photographs, their families and friends, they have very little value to 99.9% of our readers. You have to read the text if you want to find out why people are smiling as they shake hands, exchange objects, or pretend to shovel dirt with spray-painted shovels. And a good photograph should communicate something without having to read the text.

We publish many of these kinds of photographs at the Statesboro Herald. Why? Well, most of them are submitted by people in the community because organizations want people to be aware of their contributions, and our small news staff simply can't cover every event.  And the contributions are newsworthy. I would encourage our contributors to explore ways to shoot different kinds of pictures as an alternative to the standard Grip and Grin. For example, if someone is receiving an award for their charitable works, photograph them doing their charitable activities.  Instead of lining them up and posing them, perhaps make candid photographs or a portrait of the recipient that reveals something of his or her personality -- don't stand them up against a wall and photograph him or her with their plaque. If some organization is making a donation, show us how the money or goods are being distributed. If a new building is being built, show us pictures of the people who will benefit or send us a picture of an artist's rendering of the proposed building.

At a small newspaper like the Herald, sometimes photographing Grip and Grin ceremonies is unavoidable. The identity of an award winner might be secret until it is announced, and there may be too many nominees to photograph ahead of time, for example. So what do I do? If I only have time to photograph the ceremony itself, I try to stick to candid pictures that reveal something about the recipient's personality - those little moments that help us connect. I was able to accomplish this when Ogeechee Technical College presented their Instructor of the Year. When the college's President teased the recipient, I captured a moment that revealed much more than if I had shot her simply holding her plaque.

If I have more time, I talk to the recipient after the ceremony and see if I can photograph them in their environment. I did this recently with the Farm Family of the Year. They were gracious and let me spend some time with them at their farm after the luncheon. The result was a family portrait that communicated what they did for a living for the next day's paper, and I was also able to create a multimedia slide show for our web site.

Grip and Grin ceremonies can be newsworthy because they help us learn about our communities. But the resulting photographs usually aren't particularly interesting or instructive. However, there are always issues and events behind and leading up to the ceremonies, and those can produce newsworthy pictures. So, citizens, share the stories behind the Grip and Grins. That's what I want to photograph!

1 comment:

  1. Once again we were in concert. He was pleased with her.
    erotic gay sex stories
    free adult erotic goup sex stories
    gay black sex stories
    sexy hindi stories
    animal sex stories
    Once again we were in concert. He was pleased with her.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.