Smogranch is moving……

Hey Everyone,

SMOGRANCH IS MOVING TO SHIFTER

I’m giving notice. Not a thirty-day notice mind you, more like immediate, fleeing the country with NSA on my heels notice. Only I’m not fleeing. Just consolidating. I’m going to start posting my Smogranch stories on my Shifter.media site under the “Read” Category. I can’t just sit here and play on the dolphin all day. I’ve got work to do. Same stories, same style, just in one location instead of two. Shifter will be undergoing changes in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that. I’m sure you will all be anxiously awaiting….okay, probably not. Get your asses over there people!

Magic-City-Two-150430-375_11

Big Money, Big Media, Big Trouble

I know this is going to scare the living Hell out of you because the FIRST thing you will do is check to see how long this film is. How do I know that? Because I did the same thing, and everyone that was near me when I found out about this film did the exact same thing. So, you and I, and everyone else around me, are part of the problem.

This film really strikes home for me because about 11:25 in they talk about chronicling the Los Angeles local news market and found that during a typical newscast real news is given 22 seconds…..total. Local news is a critically important way of getting messages out, and real news for that matter, but we are so distracted by entertainment that the actual news is not only secondary it is almost nonexistent.
They also hit on the political debates and how essentially massive corporations, which we already knew about but still give free passes to, completely and utterly control the media.

One more classic line goes something like this…“Are these shows making us stupid.” “No, we started stupid.” Throw in blatant disregard for truth, lack of fact checking and disappearing journalistic standards and you have the perfect storm of stupidity. And guess what people, WE ARE IN THE BOAT.

Fact, truth and accountability need not apply. Watch and listen. And then, do something about it.

What am I doing? Well I just got rid of cable TV, in both locations where I live, which basically means I don’t have television. I went through brief withdrawl from the spinning things, ticker tapes, pounding informercials and political ads, but after a week or so I felt worlds better and was getting even more done. Television is a tremendous time suck, as bad or equal to the computer. Second, I try to entirely avoid any mainstream media feed. Networks, cable giants, etc, on the screen or online, and I try to avoid their advertisers, which is easier said than done. And under no circumstances do I get my political information or view from mainstream media. I realized a long time ago I could no longer rely on media for my news. Watching things like the second Gulf War unfold on the networks was sickening. I realized a long time ago I was probably NOT going to have the real story until the books began to emerge. When I say that I mean the books that ultimately emerge from a major story, and NOT those that come out three weeks later that are only meant to boost a particular journalists credibility or ego. I mean that books that come out a year or two down the line.

What sucks about all this is that I have a degree in photojournalism and know what good journalism has the power to do. There are STILL good folks out there, as they reference in the film, but with each passing day they seem to hold less power and less opportunity to get their work out in the powerful corporate world.

There is a FAINT spark of hope about all this, but the corporations are holding a bucket of frigid water and look primed to soak us all.

The Pack


Snappers descend on an anti-abortion doll, San Diego political convention, late 1990’s.

This photo says a lot about a lot of things, but I’m going to narrow it down to just a few. Perhaps one or two are relevant.

I used to love covering events. Big news events, political conventions(which is where this image was made)football games, protests, etc. I loved the thrill of the action, the packs of roving photographers, the idea of covering something considered news.

But today I’m a different person, and a different photographer. Now, I search out other kinds of work.

Working around a pack is a strange experience, especially now when the pack is so much larger than it has ever been. The switch, for me, was flipped when I covered the political convention in downtown Los Angeles a few years back(Upcoming Post!). Johnny Law was out in FULL FORCE, out of control in many ways, clubbing civilians, gassing and shooting rubber bullets for no particular reason. It was exciting in some ways but there were so many other photographers, camera people, etc, that in some ways the most difficult part was cropping out all the other snappers. I realized I was losing interest in working around other photographers.

At one point the LAPD was arresting a young woman who was carrying a pocket sized video camera who screamed, “I’m a filmmaker.” Her protest did nothing, but it did make we wonder what level of filmmaker she was, why she didn’t have a credential and why she was getting arrested? Again, the police were way overboard on how they responded to the crowd, but her plea made me realize the days of really earning a credential, really learning the craft were probably in transition. This is magnified ten-fold today, when it seems EVERYONE with a DSLR is a director of photography or cinematographer or filmmaker or producer overnight, and the internet as final destination-no quality bar- has also added to this mess.

As the years went on this reality became more and more evident. At the Super Bowl it seemed there were as many people on the field as there were in the stands(And this was the Super Bowl I covered years ago). If you have ever covered the Super Bowl then you will know the guy with Pentax K1000, 50mm and monopod that has a credential and prime spot. Seemingly everywhere I went everyone had a camera and was a “journalist” or “filmmaker” of some sort. In theory, doesn’t this democratize the process? Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing? Then why isn’t it?

I found myself looking for quiet, space, solitude and my own stories. When I would encounter even a single other photographer I would head in another direction.

There were exceptions. I worked in Sicily, five times, and each time with at least one other photographer, sometimes two or three, but we were doing it because we were friends and because we were sharing cars, sharing gas money, etc. And, what we were covering was large enough we all had our own working space.

Sometimes when you work in a pack the people you are photographing will do things they would never do simply because they are getting so much attention. This can even happen when you are working solo, but in that case it is easy to just stop shooting. Getting a pack to stop is nearly impossible. When it comes to a big news event, these packs can really create a whirlwind of their own news.(Check the articles about Lebanon from a few years ago.)

The only downside to not working these events is that I have several friends in this picture, and I do miss being around them in the field. But, I see them “off the field” so it works out.

All I know for sure is that I’m a “quiet” photographer. I think there is an upside and a downside to this. The upside is peace of mind, and quiet reflective moments on MY negatives, moments that ONLY exist for me and no one else in the world. Think about this. When I work on stories, I’m the only one there, and nobody else on the entire planet has what I have. The downside, depending on your point of view, is the lack of interest in quiet moments. Loud places tend to get more attention, but even so, when I look at my future, I see more quiet, less noise.

I think the real signature photographers don’t work in a pack, never have, never will. And I’m not referring to myself here, just others of more important historical significance. Their work requires more time and a different concentration applied in a different direction than the news photographer. Think AM vs FM radio waves. Great news photography is a fantastic thing, but again, I think a very small percentage of those in the pack are doing great news work. Maybe it comes down to motive?

I keep waiting to see signature work from Haiti that shows me a relationship between photographer and community but I have yet to see it….and I’ve been searching. Granted, it’s early days and it’s difficult to do, and perhaps I should not expect this from pack made imagery. I’ve seen work that is clearly “better” than others, but still superficial, probably due to the need to get things out as fast as humanly possible. I keep waiting for the portrait level of intimacy, and not portraits of maimed or bloodied people. I keep waiting for relationship and story telling that comes with speaking the language-even with translator-and a simplification that relays the entire picture in one image, but again, this isn’t typically what the pack provides. I’m sure it will come. The good news is that Haiti is at saturation level in the news, which has led to some great things.

What I’ve seen FAR too much of is the dead, burning rubble, heavily manipulated images of smoke and mangled bodies and tilted overly complex imagery that seems to puzzle readers but seems to be the favored snap of the modern journalism world, especially young photographers and younger photo-editors. And I see reportage from photographers who are there for a few days, fill up their drives, and have already moved on to other stories. I’m not sure what the point is other than to say, “I was in Haiti” at gatherings where a statement like that holds water. And granted, there are plenty of places where it does.(It is precisely these places that I pronounce myself a wedding photographer and watch people scatter. Just a little game I play to satisfy my juvenile tendencies.)

Or contest time, when we all know that Haiti will dominate the winning portfolios. Again, motive comes into my mind. Pack areas tend to provide contest winning material. The suburbs don’t.

I’m sure at some point in my life, I’ll be around a pack once again. I’ll say hello to my friends and then go the other way, searching for my cherished solitude.

My Comment on the BBC: Who Dat

My comment on the BBC this morning. Question was about sports bringing out the best and worst in human nature.

smogranch
February 8, 2010 at 16:50

In short, both, which is what makes sport so important.
The same could be said of politics, religion, etc. It is the emotion that brings out more of a truthful representation of the picture that human nature paints.
We all know, at times, it isn’t pretty. But this is something we must confront not deny.
I also think to really know sport, you have to follow it, and not just when a story exists that captivates the country, but also during those down times when nobody is paying attention.
Believe me, I’ve been a Saints fan for 25 years, and many of those years were spent living in Texas where life is all about the Cowboys and pledging allegiance to another team is like taking your life in your own hands. The majority of those years, there was NOTHING written about New Orleans other than articles by local media. They were one of the league’s forgotten teams. A media black hole. “The Most Disfunctional Team in the NFL,” according to one of the few stories crafted during these years.
Last night a journalist friend stopped by, a non-football watcher, and after sitting with me for five minutes said, “How do you know all this stuff, I thought it was just a bunch of big guys running around.”
I knew it because, at least in my mind, I’m a real fan. Who Dat!