Platypus Workshop Report
by William Campbell
We all survived Halstead's video boot camp. Thirty still photographers in one room for two weeks. Sixteen hours a day of camera routines, script writing, logging, editing, ethics, and "commitments" to bizarre assignments. There were brutal critiques that flattened egos. Technical mistakes left tape unusable and edits erased. New gear to master and new techniques to learn, forget, and learn again. 

A common thread held the workshop together. The dire need to add a new element to the field of photojournalism. All the photographers that made their way to Norman, OK were in search of a technique that would blend old photojournalism traditions with new video techniques.  

Our instructors were totally committed to the "Platypus" concept. The "platypus" is Dirck Halstead's vision that a still photojournalist with a passion for a story could research, report, shoot stills and video then end up with both a still project for a magazine or newspaper and a good video story for TV. It's a concept that might keep photojournalism alive for years to come. 

We are going to hit some walls in trying to get our new projects on the air. TV has it's own tradition. Freelance news features usually have a reporter, a producer, editors, and an expensive "camera package" that drive up the budget and make long term projects impossible under most TV budgets. 

But there are "cracks" in the wall. There are producers in the networks that know and respect good journalism and are willing to break from tradition. Nightline is the prime example. CNN is opening up to outside sources. Some local TV stations are working with newspapers.  

Our commitment to the old tradition of photojournalism might be our strongest asset in working with video. With TV news budgets stretched to the limit many stories that need weeks to cover are shot in two or three days. TV documentaries for cable networks are often recreated and staged. 
We are not going to be a low cost "camera package" but rather a photojournalist with a still and video camera working on our own long term projects.  In the end it will be the quality of time and integrity that will be strongest selling points of platypus projects.  

Many thanks to Dirck, Rolf, Dick, David, PF, and Amy for their time and extraordinary effort and patience in teaching us the basics and giving us the tools to get started this new and exciting journey. 

William Campbell is a Time Magazine contributing photographer based in Livingston, Montana. He is starting to work on joint Time/CNN video projects on environmental issues in the west as well as a long term project on the realignment of man and animals in the northern Rockies.

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