(Just updated the small image gallery I’ve been keeping from here)
Two nights ago, I go to cover the prize ceremony of the men’s X-country 15km race here in Oslo. Matti Heikkinen is the first man to win this title in 12 years in Finland – so it’s big news back home. We are doing 11 pages on his race – plus the web.
I get to my hotel room, I’m frantically editing my images to file them – and then I get a nervous call from my client back home: “Where are your images, we are waiting and waiting, the competitor has theirs up already”. Note: this is less than 10 min after the whole thing has finished.
I go numb – then angry – two minutes later I’m done – and then… I pause to think.
Now: Wait a minute. Am I missing something in here?
Let’s rewind: I live 300 meters away from the venue. I am professional in this: I am fast with my editing and captioning. I have a very fast computer, smooth workflow, fast line out, chained FW-800 readers, I have made text templates beforehand to caption, etc.
In other words: I am prepared , I know what I’m doing, I’m in a hurry so I am pushing my limits.
So how the hell can “the competitor” – i.e Helsinki based Ilta-Sanomat be out already with images on their website?
In addition, I know the two photographers very well who work for the agency Lehtikuva/STT and who supply IS with images. Actually, saw both of them out there – and made mental note that I saw no transmitters in the cameras.How is this possible ?
So I check. And I’m in for a surprise.
Forget Photography – Screen Capture Rules
The images are screen captures from YLE – the national broadcasting company. Now, I don’t know about YLE, but if somebody just screen grabs my images and puts them like that on their site, it would be an immediate invoice – and boy, it would be a fat one. Some of you might remember an incident I had late last year, so: been there, done that.
This time it is not my copyright so I won’t raise more hell about it. But somebody should. Just couple of simple questions: a) is this legal? b) is this journalism? c) is this going to be MO of the future?
The posted pictures are shitty quality, blurry, fuzzy – in one image Matti is squinting his eyes a bit like he might be emotionally moved… I think about my friends and colleagues in Lehtikuva, they must be totally pissed that their work gets dismissed that way. They are good professionals, they don’t deserve this.
Then I read the story, how “Matti Heikkinen was emotionally moved during the national anthem, blah, blah, blah…”. Actually, you should speak Finnish to understand this as the nuances here. The word “herkistyi” (transl. “emotionally moved”) in this context almost inevitably suggests the presence of tears… but now I’m digressing here (it’s the linguist in me). If you don’t speak Finnish, then take my word for it.
So: what had happened? My guess: an order to take pictures of the tears as he stands on the podium. Write the story beforehand to get it out immediately . You could call it careful planning, being prepared.
Except: It did not happen. Our protagonist is totally relaxed smiling, laughing… No sign of tears. Remember: I was there, looking at him thru the lens all the time.
I’ve never seen Matti so relaxed, enjoying the situation, smiling so much. Definitely no sign of tears.
I wonder if the “journalist” who wrote the piece did it in Oslo or in Helsinki?
But: they run the story anyway – and scroll the TV-footage until they find a frame which might suggest “tears” happened. Just grab it from another media’s coverage – no worries, they won’t sue…
Maybe IS have some sort of deal with YLE. I seriously doubt it, but what do I know…
Point being: What has this got to do with journalism? Accurate photojournalism? Giving a true account of what has happened? Serving your readers with respect?
Granted: the event being reported is totally trivial – emotional reactions of one person in a prize giving ceremony of an obscure sport almost exclusively practiced in the North Pole countries…
But: I’m sorry, no, I don’t accept that. Bad excuse. It’s a principle of how you conduct your business – which should be journalism. There is a saying in Finnish: “You should not piss in your pants when it’s freezing. It might make you warm for a while but then you get twice as cold”. With the legacy print doing as it is (during the last four years IS has lost 24% of it’s readers) I’d think twice before pulling stunts like that.
Journalism is very simple (in an event like this): You go and see what happens – then you report and show how it was. If you can, you find your own angle.
Journalism is not: “tears of grown-up man on the podium during the anthem gets us the maximum number of clicks so let’s run that”. Well, it didn’t happen, but who cares?
What the hell were they thinking?
And even more important question: Do we accept this?
Is this the MO we will be doing in the future?
Telling Stories thru Images
Those who know me know I have passion for photography as an extremely powerful storytelling tool. It still has that “aura”, the inherent capability for capturing so much – and telling so much – with so little. And thus behaviour of any media which does something this idiotic just makes me furious. Sure, I could say “I don’t give a shit, it’s not my client”. But trouble is: I truly love what I do – and thus: I do care – unfortunately, maybe.
At its best, great sports photography should be telling stories thru you images, sharing your vision. Letting the reader to see and share what you see, to understand, to draw his/her conclusions.
Let me share two images from yesterday which I liked personally very much. Just your basic good images, as an example, nothing more. This is what I mean.
And I shot these all by myself – these are no screen grabs… ;-)
The scene: Oslo, Nordic skiing world championships 2011. Men, dual sprint competition. Two guys, each doing 3 laps. Finnish duo Sami Jauhojärvi and Ville Nousiainen are in 10-15meter lead when Sami finishes the fifth of the six laps. Ville is on his way, disappearing into the mist, visibility is about 30 meters only. We wait by the finnish with our cameras… Ville is leading… and then: one competitor emerges from the fog, comes into focus, then second, then third… In the end, Finland is fifth. Canada wins. Ville has to face and answer the “wolf pack” i.e. my dear writing colleagues “how could he lose it when he had such a good lead” – an obligation for an athlete I do not envy at all.
This is true emotions, this is sports at its peak drama, this photography as I’d like to see it presented in our media.
Screen captures, my ass.
More of my images from Oslo WC 2011 in this small gallery.