Stills Rule, Video Drools
April 2003

by James Colburn

Have you noticed that ever since Gulf War 2 began all the networks have been running daily collections of still photographs? It wonderful to see ABC, CNN and others use some of their oh-so-precious air time to broadcast pictures that don't move. Things get a little KenBurnsian once in a while but they all seem to be showing still photos. This could be due to the obvious fact that still photographers are inherently better than those of the video persuasion... Better looking, better smelling, better dressed, smarter.... generally all 'round better human beings.

But alas, it seems that vidoegraphers in Iraq are lumbered by the fact that all that they've been allowed to photograph is their #$%^& reporter standing in front of yet another #$%^& bombing of Baghdad or another #$%^& line of tanks in the distance or just standing in front of another #$%^& black sky repeating the same #$%^& they said twenty minutes ago to some #$%^& jerk sitting in the studio at home.

They've got to keep their cameras trained on some mop-haired "talent" as he rides along at break-neck speed through the desert saying things like "I'm sitting on top of this Bradley Armored Vehicle reporting live to you from southern Iraq. I don't know where we are and can't tell you where we're going but I'm speaking to you live from on top of this Bradley Armored Vehicle from southern Iraq."

It's so sad. Couldn't they have sent a few college interns along to do that sort of thing and let their best videographers loose with some compact equipment to get some real pictures? Show us the drama? Let us see and hear what it's like to be on the front lines? Are we going to have to wait for this war's "Saving Private Ryan" before we can (sort of) see what happened?

And why don't the videographers ever get an on-air credit?


Sometimes good things do happen. If you remember my "What They Didn't Tell You at J-School" column from back in October I mentioned that "poor, dumb bastard" and excellent young photographer Ben Lowy and said that he deserved a break. That "in the 70's or the 80's he'd have been snapped up in a second by any one of four or five agencies and sent out to the latest hot spot to get some seasoning, make some money and take some damn fine pictures." Well, thanks to people like Arienne DeArmas at Apix (thanks Adrienne) and Rick Boeth at Corbis (thanks Rick) and to a few people at my own magazine Ben Lowy got his break was embedded with the 101st Airborne in Kuwait and is now on assignment for Time Magazine covering Gulf War 2. He has been doing some superb photographs that hold their own with the best from anyone over there. The kid's got a future!

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer


Write a Letter to the Editor
Join our Mailing List
© The Digital Journalist