Thursday, June 17, 2004
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Clayton News Daily
Looking around at a demonstration I was covering in Brunswick, Ga. during the G-8 summit I was straining my eyes to find the protesters out of a sea of media and spectators. It seems there were more people taking pictures than actually participating in the protest. Even the demonstrators had cameras and high-tech digital camcorders with all the bells and whistles. It was hard to get a photo without getting 10 other cameras coming into my frame. If one photogenic and animated protester began to shout something everybody with a camera swarmed that individual. Is the media so over-saturated that it outnumbers the people at the event it is covering?
Two summers ago I photographed the Mermaid Festival and parade in Coney Island, Brooklyn, near my apartment. Flamboyant men and women come dressed up like mermaids and in other eccentric costumes. Added to this were the hundreds of photographers swamping the scene looking for images to bolster their portfolios, which I was certainly included. With 20 photographers buzzing around one cute mermaid it ruins the chances of originality and instead creates a spectacle. I will allow that such a media presence does up the ante to capture or find something that no one else will. Just the prospect of that at a big media event is thrilling.
With more focus these days on knowing about directors and DVD's focusing on the ways in which a film is shot and assembled it's no wonder that artistically inclined protesters or festival-goers are switching over to the other side of the camera. The fact that digital cameras and the technology to produce polished home movies on a laptop has become much cheaper only helps. Kids can know learn how to use the same computer programs that professional filmmakers use to create special editing effects.
Predicting that the relationship of artist to viewer will change may be premature since the availability of 8-mm home movie cameras and clunky video camcorders never deterred the public from seeing Hollywood-produced features instead of making them in the backyard. However, before now consumers only had the ability to film without the prospects of editing footage and sound together to create something more cohesive.
I wonder if we gave those Palestinians who fight against the IDF cameras if they would put down the Molotov-cocktails and suicide bombs and focus on filming the human rights violations perpetrated by Israel instead? Or is that the job of the photographers and the videographers while the two groups remain in eternal conflict?
If everyone wants to get behind the lens then what will we have to photograph except a bunch of people holding cameras instead of signs? I wrestle with the fact that I don't want what I do to be an elitist activity but at the same time I need some engaging people to take snap photos of.
Zach Porter is a photographer with the News Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com or (770) 478-5753 ext. 248.