Friday, 22 October 2010

A Sunny Autumn Day.... Brings Tears To The Eyes.

Standing at the Thames riverside with the Autumn sun shining is a great way to start the working day. The ripples of the Thames reflect the dappled light to the Autumn leaves and moored pleasure boats along the pathway. Together with the sound of rushing water over the nearby lock, it evokes a pleasant and idyllic scene.

I soon spot the men in a boat, drifting lazily across the river, staring intently over the gentle scene. Walkers who have stopped to take in the sights and stand in the warm sun. I can see a man and a woman sitting on the grass next to the river, arm in arm, giving each other a gentle hug as they watch the passing boat in the water....

So you think i am trying my hand at writing a romantic novel? Describing the scene as two lovers sit in an idyllic landscape, as i write the words to a resounding romantic crescendo? Maybe i am here to film the beautiful surroundings for a soft news item about the pleasures of living by the river in outer London...?

Well, No. As the scene unfolded in front of me, i can see that the men in the boat are wearing Police and rescue services uniforms, and that the boat has a blue flashing light. They are staring into the water, not across it. The walkers taking in the sun are concerned passers by, the usual crowd who stop to see what is going on. The rushing waters of the lock contain Police divers on a search for the body of a man whose Mother and Father sit on the riverbank, arm in arm, giving each other gentle hugs, as tears stream from their faces as they wait for the inevitable, tragic outcome of the searching that is taking place directly in front of them.... Listening for the shout out that the Police finally have their man.

So i stand there, with my camera on my tripod as i roll on yet another story that on the face of it, looks like a normal Autumn day by the river Thames. But as is all too often in the news cameraman's life, i roll tape on another family's tragedy, on the working lives of those who look for the dead and take notes for the coroner. I roll tape on a Mother and Fathers worst day which is taking shape not 20 yards away in front of me, and i roll tape on the grim faces of the men and women who stand and stare....

This, by the way, is the end of the story which started the day before. Two men, walking their dog beside the river, stopped as the dog jumped in and couldn't get out. One man went in after the dog, but he himself soon became trapped by the swirling river currents. His friend went in after him and he too, soon got into difficulties. The bodies of both men have now been recovered, into the care of the families who now have funerals to plan.

The dog got out on it's own.

Friday, 15 October 2010

How A Freelancer Really Gets The Work.

The picture below is of my business card drawer. I guess all freelancers have one, a place to put all the little fernickity pieces of contact information that people thrust at you from time to time. My drawer is now pretty much full and anyway, really important contacts are in my big book of contacts and on my computer. Triple logged and stored in case something nasty happens.

Contacts... never discarded.

So why do i tell you this? Well lately, things have been a little slow on the freelance news cameraman work front. Broadcasters are hoarding their money for the tough times yet to come and us freelancers are the first to get it in the neck.

So it was a ray of sunshine when a cameraman friend of mine called to see if i could cover a documentary shoot for a crewing company working for a major production company. He couldn't do it and they were pretty desperate to get a man on the ground as time was critical.

You see, this is what the freelance camera world is all about. one bloke who knows another, who passes on the details to someone else, in order that they can work for another company. Three, sometimes four levels of contact hot swapping saw the job come my way, resulting in three or more gladly received days of work for a major outfit, on a filming job that turned out to be a pleasure to work on. So not only do i now have four more work contacts in my book, i am known to two more people in a position to hire cameramen for their services. All thanks to a mate of mine who i am normally competing with on the ground to get the best pictures for our respective news outlets.

So next time i'm on the road and we meet, i shall be a little gentler with my sharpened elbows in the press pack, and try to avoid setting up shop in front of his tripod, just for the hell of it. Hell, i might even buy him a coffee.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

That Reminds Me...

Having just pixelated my brain on the interweb looking at all sorts of rubbish like short films that quality passed by, regurgitated articles with piss poor photography and so called news items that just had to include a celebrity, i was really thankful to Christian Parkinson for tweeting a link to the blog pages of someone i knew of, but have never met.

Greg Marinovich is a photographer that some of you will know, and some of you will not. If you don't know him, you are maybe a little too young to know of his exploits in Africa and other parts of the world, resulting in a book called The Bang Bang Club, co written with fellow photographer Joao Silva. So exited was i at seeing the link, i dug out my 9 year old copy of the book and reminded myself of the journey that Greg and his fellow photographers took through the Township wars of South Africa in the early 1990's.

Found it.....
I remembered reading the book the first time around, so hooked into the story that i read the book in a day. Yes, it's an old book now, read by anyone who was around at the time who had an interest in photography, news, and what it took to get the stories and the pictures out to a wider world. But that was not the story that gripped me. Anyone who has even an inkling that they would like to get into this line of work should read this book, not just for the stories of how they went about their work, but for the human misery, death and innocence lost, not only of the people of the townships of South Africa, but also the photographers themselves.

An old book, but still very relevant to the world today.

This post isn't meant to be a book review. I am many years too late. And i will not go into what happens to the members of the bang bang club, for it is a story best told by the authors, and the conclusions best left to your imaginations. But i tell you this... you will read a book that is both thoughtful and yet savage. It will churn you up inside and give your brain and your conscience something to think about weeks after you have read it, even now, so many years after the events themselves.

So for now, i am going to turn off my computer and my mobile phone, and get to grips again with a real piece of substance that is still relevant in todays world.  I urge you to do the same.

Paul Martin