It’s a wonderful life

November 17, 2008

Photographers moan: boy do they moan! Indeed a regular conversation between myself and colleagues whilst chewing the fat on another wet dark doorstep around Downing Street in London is what the most appropriate term for a collective of news/sports photographers should be. And a ‘moan’ or ‘grumble’ is often the most popular choice as a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for the ‘pack’.

We complain about our cameras, our laptops, our internet connections, our computer software, our hours of work, our assignments. We complain about our pay, politicians, press officers, security, traffic, our bosses, our colleagues, our allotted photo positions, and backgrounds in pictures. And we complain about the weather – the stereotype about Brits really is true! Too sunny, too wet, too bright, too dark, too windy, not windy enough…any excuse for a picture that was ALMOST there, but not quite…

However, whilst always somehow feeling relatively new to the job (not sure why, as I ‘officially’ started my career fifteen years ago at the not-so-tender age of 23 in regional newspapers in Bristol in southwest England, certain that I was following the right path after ‘dropping-out’ as a university undergraduate), rarely does a day pass when at some point do I think I am still in the best career in the world.

Where else can you access and shoot the best sporting events in the world? Where else can you get an insight to government machinations and cover the biggest political changes and upheavals in the world, shoot seismic shifts in the environment and similar seismic shifts in the global economic infrastructure? How many other careers allow access into an operating theatre to photograph emergency heart surgery on a child one day and on the next to dealers manically flailing arms on a City trading room floor, whilst also being able to get to go and shoot an athlete pushing human physical limits to the extreme in an Olympic final in Sydney, Athens, Beijing – and maybe a run–down area of the East End of London next?!

So next time I hear a photographer grumble about shooting yet another sign of a bank or brand logo suffering in this financial downturn, I will thank someone that it isn’t me working for that company going bust. I will thank someone that I am not cooped up in an office all day long. And I will be happy being the proverbial ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ wire-agency photo-journalist. I will remind myself of the far more hostile environments of war, conflict, disease and environmental catastrophe that some of my colleagues have to operate in to get a great picture in ‘their patch’. I’m not sure if the job has made me any wiser, but nevertheless I will thank someone that I am privileged to be paid to be seeing and reporting on small vignettes and episodes of what goes on around us every day…

To view a portfolio of Toby’s work click here


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Posted by » Blog Archive » It’s a wonderful life | Report as abusive

Thank You! An inspiring story.

Posted by Hannes | Report as abusive

you are god damn right…

Posted by spencer | Report as abusive

i know how you feel, i moan about it too, but when i ask myself what i’d rather do? i say nothing! this is it! this is what i want to do! there’s nothing else i’d rather do than be a photographer…… but its just the hours……the pay and the……wait a sec i’m doing it again:-)

Posted by Cillian | Report as abusive

I am a PR guy for the military, I have taken pix all over the world, as you have. Yeah! There is nothing quite like it. Access!

Posted by SFC CH | Report as abusive

I noted with some dismay the photo you took of the rear end of a passenger delayed at Heathrow…you’d think you might have better ways to spend your time and talent, instead you just came across as shallow and vindictive. What a pity.

Posted by Eloise the Lawyer | Report as abusive

Thank you, Eloise! You took the words right out of my mouth. How very sad that Mr. Melville found something worthwhile in that person’s backside…something so profound as to post the picture for the world to see. And, I also agree that it was shallow and vindictive, not to mention mean-spirited and just plain childish. Shame on YOU, Mr. Melville.

Posted by peachsalsa | Report as abusive