Amy Bowers - TV Talk

Get In Touch With
Your Inner Girl

Look at the cameraman, wave to the cameraman, what channel are you?

Ladies and Women, my spellcheck lists the correct spelling for "camerawoman" as "c-a-m-e-r-a-m-a-n." The generic gender of TV news photography is definitely male. But when I shot TV news, I was not deterred.

Twenty years of hauling around my mini-cam did not exactly showcase my femininity. Instead, it allowed me to get in touch with my Inner Newspuke: aggressive, physically tough, and very competitive. No matter that I was semantically un-selected at the assignment desk: We need a cameraman, hire a cameraman, which cameraman do you want? (Hey!!! what about me!!!???) I toughened up, I did good work, I endured.

At WCVB-TV in Boston, I objected to being called "the sweet young thing" by our assignment editor Paul Toomey. I asked him to drop the adjectives, without considering what would happen when he thoughtfully agreed, and called me the "thing."

I wish I had a photo of myself at WBZ in 1975, hair cut in a long shag, CP-16 film camera on shoulder, wearing a flowered, polyester blouse, boy's jeans, and carpenter-style work boots. This was my getup in Boston, where the sisterhood of newsfilm photographers in local television was a circle of one. I could really have used a role model.

I was strong enough to deal with the heavy equipment and felt comfortable with my rig. But, I dressed like I was ready for a scuffle: pockets buttoned, shoes double-knotted, hi-top sneakers or work boots, battle bra. At the end of the day, I was a "puke" with a sore shoulder and a challenged lower back. Womanly didn't have much to do with it. I drank bourbon with the boys, and occasionally brought one of them home.

Sworn in as a "union man" at my initiation into I.B.E.W. Local 1228, I pledged to "brotherhood." I saw the world as a woman, but never felt delicate out there on the street. With the camera on my shoulder and a spare Nicad battery adding a few pounds, clipped to my "sissy-belt," my sense of self was not very feminine. I'm not sure where my "Inner Girl" resided, but I kept her tucked away most of the time.

Here are some of the ways my Inner Girl was buried by my Outer Newspuke:

I thought feminine meant vulnerable, and shooting news meant tough. I was seldom bothered by anyone when I put all my consciousness into my TV camera. People noticed the camera, not me.

I put on my game face, which was not sweet. I had attitude. This snap was taken in a boxing gym in Mexico City, 1985. No place for girls, but the right place for a camera-, um, man (?) from CBS Sports. I never called myself a "cameraperson," because people only used that term for women anyhow, so they might as well have called us "camerawomen." The British lads called me a "lady cameraman."

Girl is not important. Director Don Roy King knows my name but when we are on the air, I am "Easy zoom in, Camera One."

Here I am in my rain suit with producer Paulette Douglas, in Southern California. It's hard to feel like a Babe while wearing impermeables, plus a 30-volt battery belt designed for pot-bellied cameramen. The only time the belt didn't slip down over my hips was when I was pregnant.

Here I'm working on my tan at a Space Shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base, looking semi-fab. My Inner Girl is visible through the outer one. I find the desert very liberating.

If I always looked like this on assignment, I probably would never have stopped shooting. This picture was taken near Ground Zero at Nevada Test Site, a nuclear test site. My Inner Girl was probably being irradiated while my Outer Girl had a great time.

My Biological Clock alarmed my Inner Girl when I was in my early thirties, so I enlisted my partner in a Special Project, resulting in our family. Ladies, here's that Pumpkin Patch where babies come from! If you shoot while you're pregnant, you can use your belly as an armrest. You can also puke from morning sickness on the way to assignments. But since you're already a newspuke, no one will notice, as long as your video isn't blue.

Ah, a sweet result of the Special Project.
This kid has role models!

GET IN TOUCH: Ladies and News Photogs, the TV news gear is still heavy, and the pace is more demanding than in my day. I think most of us can get better jobs as show producers or managers. If you do work as a TV camerawoman, please let me know how your Inner Girl expresses herself. Meanwhile, I'm going to look for my Outer News Babe somewhere between New Mexico and Paradise.

Amy Bowers


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