Chris Moran – Musings From Uranus
Snowboard photographers are such an endless source of fascination for those who work with them. Why? Because they are sensitive types; artistes, divas even, who tend to have the social skills of a snot-covered ten-year-old – and the attention span to match. And because they’re usually so highly strung, there is literally nothing more fun that winding them into a tantrum. I call it “taking them to the Naomi Campbell Zone™”
First, their good bits: they create art. Great art, in fact. Anyone who has seen themselves through the lens of a great photographer will know this because a good photographer is a magician who can bend the light to their will and extract beauty out of any scene.
‘Dutch Tilt’: In terms of legitimacy, this is at the photographic equivalent of an email from Lagos telling you you’ve inherited 20 million dollars
So how are they doing this? Ah well, this is the thing. That ‘magic’ is a grey area indeed. In the DVD extras of the brilliant film Afterbang, David Benedek mocks up a scene where Photoshop is used to double the height of David’s air. Naturally, it’s a spoof, but while few photographers would go that far in cheating a shot (honour amongst thieves and all that), there are definitely some questionable practices in the dark art of snowboard photography. Take, for example, the way the image can be composed so as to make the ground appear steeper (the so-called ‘Dutch Tilt’). In terms of legitimacy, this is at the photographic equivalent of an email from Lagos telling you you’ve inherited 20 million dollars.
And that’s just on location. After the shot is in the bag, most images go through a ‘processing’ that would raise the eyebrows of even the most hardened forger in Strangeways. In years gone by, manipulation required knowledge, skill and a darkroom. Now, your nan can send you cross-processed shots of her neighbour Irene framed in a medium-format plate in an instant. And yes, Irene looks rad.
And this is one thing that infuriates photographers: the fact that modern technology and the internet have unveiled their tricks and ushered us all behind the curtain. Part of me sympathises. After all, aside from musicians perhaps, no group of skilled tradesmen and women have been so utterly shafted by the web. And to think, years ago they thought it’d make their lives easier.
So if we truly wish to wind up our photograph-taking amigos, it’s into this delicious irony that we must twist our knives. No photographer’s nerves are as sensitive as the ones exposed by the utterly unfair notion that literally anyone with access to the cheapest of cheap smartphones can now take amazing photos. When we first started Whitelines back in 1995, to stitch together a panoramic sequence took about a week of work. Today, my iPhone does it in seconds while I munch on a Cornetto and do a pirouette on one heel.
Changing films on a shoot back in the day was like playing the game Operation on a plane during turbulence, while someone sets off a fire extinguisher in your face
Of course the same could be said of writers (the recent Twop Twip said it best: “RECREATE the thrill of writing a blog by screaming your deepest, most profound thoughts into the dark, uncaring, night sky. @chribhibble”), but the difference there is that we started out with a shit computer and a dodgy internet connection and little has changed since. Conversely, changing films on a shoot back in the day was like playing the game Operation on a plane during turbulence, while someone sets off a fire extinguisher in your face. Photographers had to be dedicated, and hence, there were fewer out there. Today I can get a cover shot by saying “Siri, take this Whitelines cover shot for me, would you, and then find me the nearest Cornetto shop; I’m feeling peckish.” ‘Infuriating’ doesn’t come close.
But if you want the top three things to truly make steam come out of a photographer’s ears, here they are in reverse order: simply steal their photos from Facebook or their website (for extra kudos points, crudely Photoshop out any watermark); hashtag every great shot you post on Instagram with #nofilter, (they really, really hate that); and at number one, comment on every shot they post with “Dutch tilt, guaranteed.”
There are loads more of course – pulling out an iPad to take a selfie, pouring sand into their 5d battery hole, etc etc… – but as the we’re likely to run another Photo Special next year, and as a career in photography continues to degenerate into the world’s longest and most horrific menopause, it’s best if I leave something back.