Sneaking in a Shooter's Circle
August 2003

by Jim Parisi

I had almost forgotten how cool it was to be a photographer.

Oh, you never forget the creative side. Making a picture from the life you see in front of you. But what I had almost forgotten, what was buried somewhere deep in the back of my mind for the past 16 years or so, was the unique camaraderie and even power of these people who record history for the rest of us. This website is home to some of the most accomplished photographers in the world. I’m just a rookie who had the good fortune to experience this unique social circle a few times in my career, most recently two weeks ago.

I was coming from a Coastal News shoot, the small company we formed to do shows covering shoreline issues. Within a few minutes, two people called me to ask if I knew the latest about a shark sighting in the waters off Narragansett Town Beach. I said no, and called officials to see what was going on. “Two more sightings this morning, we’re closing the beach, news conference at 3.” I’m five miles away with Dirck’s (this site’s editor) old DVCAM in tow. When I arrive, live trucks litter the scene. Everyone basically in New England television media is here. I get my B-Roll of swimmers being limited to wading knee-deep, some of the media, and the appropriate establishing shots. Then I move to where the news conference is set to be, 30 minutes early.

We’re in the television news business, and some people love us while some people hate us. Depends on their point of view, and what the story we’re covering is all about. On this occasion, the folks running the boardwalk were friendly and Rhode Island sarcastic. My favorite kind of people. I had fun with them..and we mutually decided where the news conference should be held. Being by far the smallest company to cover this, and stuck without a wireless mic, I use my advantage of being there first to set up a shot that allows for me to use a short wire and still be far enough from the newsmakers to have room for the dozen cameras sure to be there in a matter of minutes.

They all came, and set up around my camera. And then I got to experience what I have been missing for well over a decade. First the unspoken rule of helping make sure every shooter gets a nice angle and a legit shot at the newsmakers. Then everyone helps those who didn’t come quite as prepared. “Hey can I use your tape to strap my mic to the stand?” “Sure.” “Me too, rip me off a piece. Hey thanks”. It’s very rare to see a group of photographers trying to be sinister about beating out the competition, as we see in every poor portrayal of the media in movies and TV shows. It happens, but usually when out of town shooters are there and there is no mutual respect in place that comes when seasoned veterans cover the same TV market for years. In a case like this, everyone will get the same soundbites, so there is no reason to be cutthroat. The reporters start streaming in, preparing for their myriad live hits. “I have my first at 5:01”, one says. The camaraderie continues. Reporters from one station, hug shooters from other's stations. “How’s the baby?” a kind-faced photog out of Boston asked the woman talent from the ‘competition’. Everyone catches up on everyone else’s lives as we wait for the officials to step to the makeshift podium. But my favorite part isn’t the sweet stuff. I like the wiseass banter best. “Hey how’s that blue video treatin’ ya? Still learning how to white balance?” “They still let you use their equipment down there in Providence?” No one is immune. The man who ran the boardwalk motioned to an attractive young woman across from him. “You guys need to focus your cameras? She can stand at the podium for you?” My answer, before I could stop myself: “No thank you she might break the lens.” Roar from the shooters that heard it, and I had been accepted, maybe as an honorary member for just a short time.

Then the newsmakers arrive…and step up to speak. Here is where the real shooters of this world are amazing. Silence, everyone adjusting, focusing, testing audio. Their ‘game faces’ are on. These people are good, and they take their jobs very seriously. I’ve run TV newsrooms, interviewed Presidents, yet at this moment I’m a boy among men and women. “Get the speaker sound of the beach closing announcement?” one reporter asks her shooter. “Got it just now” is the answer. Twenty minutes later it’s over. The reporters line up the newsmakers for their upcoming live shots, and I interview them right away, shake hands, and leave the beach. Smiling.

I had almost forgotten how cool it was to be a photographer.

© Jim Parisi

(Jim Parisi is the founder of and He has run several television newsrooms, and is a former anchor/reporter)


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