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02 May 2013

The Power of the Still Image. The Image is Important? Or The Image is Everything??????

Gai Waterhouse walks away from an angry John Singleton and a downcast Nash Rawiller
What is the role of the Still Photographer?  Well, on track when working in a press capacity, it's to capture the news, and the story of the day.  It's also our job to objectively, accurately and sensitively record for the public record what happened. To capture the emotion, feelings and mood of the moment.  The skill of a truly good still photographer is so much more than just asking your subject to put their arms around each other, and to hold a trophy up, or to give it, or each other, a kiss. 

John Singleton and Gai Waterhouse are in the middle of a spectacular and public fallout.  They have been friends for over 30 years, and it's been a highly successful and public friendship.  Their friendship undoubtedly revolved around trust and a belief in the other.

I took this image shortly after More Joyous had run the worst race of her career to finish 2nd last in the G1 All Aged Stakes won by All Too Hard.  The image is a classic example of how a photograph can tell 1000 words, and how powerful the still photograph really is, and therefore how important the Still Photographer is to society.  A journalist could literally sit down and write a 1000 word essay on what happened that afternoon.  Yet a single still image can sum it all up in an instant and leave us with an enduring memory.

This is what my uncle wrote about the image which ran front cover of the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun last Sunday.  He's family and therefore biased, but he's also a complete photo and camera nut, and if I impress him, I've done ok!
"In addition to the exasperation on both their faces, the selective focus is what makes it a great photo rather than simply a good one. Every element works to create a compelling narrative. This however, is not simply a serendipitous photo, it is about being involved and experienced enough to be both ready and in the right place to capture the story. This is a photo which displays your complete engagement and command of your craft".

Robert F Kennedy Jr (son of assassinated US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, and nephew of assassinated US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy) wrote this about my photographic idol Jacques Lowe, who was the Kennedy's family's photographer:
"They were able to see that Jacques had something special, and they trusted him for his art as much as for his friendship, which he unerringly earned and never violated.  He was such a wonderful friend to my family during that period.  Jacques played a critical role in explaining the Kennedy family to the rest of America.  And I think he was able to do that better than anybody, better than Arthur Schlesinger or Ted Sorenson or Dick Goodwin.  Jacques, because of his special touch, was able to tell the story in a way more people could understand.  Jacques photographs never missed anything.  They were beautiful ... and they validated wonderful memories of my own childhood.  I was surrounded by people who had recorded my father's deeds and who could explain his life and his visions.  Jacque's pictures make these memories concrete".
The Singleton-Waterhouse saga and scandal involves more than just John and Gai, and the poor run of a champion racehorse who is dear to both of their hearts.  The bust up of their relationship is high profile, involving a number of very high profile people.  Emotions are running strongly, and trust and loyalties are divided and have seemingly been betrayed.

It was the job of this image to portray all of this and to portray that betrayal of trust.  And I think that the image, and therefore I, have done our job well.  Is the friendship between John and Gai mortally wounded? Are there other relationships that are mortally wounded?  Only time will tell.  On the subject of trust, I got these little words of wisdom this week:
"The only person who can really hurt you is the one you trust... they are in the position that you create for them to do that"
What causes relationships to go wrong can be complex. Can trust, if broken, ever be rebuilt?  That depends on whether (1) the person who broke it is genuinely sorry and committed to rebuilding, rather than just patching up, the relationship; and (2) both parties decide the relationship is worth repairing AND have the courage and conviction to stand up for each other. I like a line in "Return of the King" before the battle of the Pelanor Fields.  Eowyn whispers to Merri "courage Merri, courage for our friends". And in the words of Harry Potter, "I trusted the man I knew".

Sometimes a person and relationship is sacrificed.  Sometimes it's permanent, sometimes it's temporary.  The motivation can range from simple thoughtlessness or an unintended mistake, to one party being troubled and confused, or just plain nasty.  Or perhaps one person just decided the relationship wasn't actually that important to them after all.

And while on the subject of photographs, and the emotions that they can display, I recently saw a photograph that was too fierce and and a bit alarming for me.  I much preferred the gentle, and kind look I always experienced when face to face.  Our eyes are the window to the soul and I like to think that they cannot lie.  Just as the anguish in Gai's face was real and apparent, I had a friend say very recently to me "but I saw the eyes.  It was real".  But the eyes belonging to the person in the photo I saw made me uneasy and unsettled.  Perhaps these eyes show the real person, who is a stranger to me?  Which is the real one?  Only time will tell....

Tonight I am sitting cross legged on the floor, watching a Harry Potter DVD while Maxie goes silly playing with a pipe cleaner.  And I'm going through some of my newspapers I've been collecting over the past couple of years.  Lots of Famous Pony clippings and photographs, some of which I took.  And a number taken of other subjects, by other photographers that I collected as well.  Perhaps it's time to purge some things out of my life, or perhaps I'm just straightening up and tidying?  I'm not always good at walking certain objects out to the bin..

Looking forward I am still grappling with the issue of flights to Melbourne for a Famous Pony product launch next weekend.  The flights, naturally, are expensive, but it's important that I attend.  And of course Sunday, while not my weekend with the kids, is Mother's Day, so I'm hoping I can get back not too late and the kids can come home a little earlier than they normally would.  I have an invitation to the launch of these wonderful items on Saturday morning, and some signing sessions to attend on Sunday.   I am allowed to take a guest to the launch on Saturday morning.  In part this just fills me with sadness, because I think back to the last launch that was associated with the Famous Pony, and I don't know who to take along with me, or who will be able to come. 

And finally, on very Sunday I scored the front page of the Sunday Telegraph with the image above, I stumbled across, and bought for $10, an old and precious original Sunday Telegraph dated Sunday 24 November 1963.  My political idol John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who I mentioned above, was assassinated on 22 November 1963.  This paper detailed the events of the assassination and the subsequent arrest of suspect Lee Harvey Oswald, and the events of the assassination.  It is old, and a little faded and worn, but original, and finding it was  serendipitous, and the paper is now incredibly precious to me.  Incidentally, 24 November also happens to be the date of my son Heath's birthday.  Just a little bit of trivia.

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