With all the hype happening this week around the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles coming to America, I couldn’t help but reflect how much this band influenced my own career as a photographer and filmmaker.
I was inspired me to “capture” history (and use my camera as a means to that end).To start with, the first pictures that I remember taking as a child were photos I snapped of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I vividly remember as I anxiously awaited the show to begin, that I needed to document it somehow. It was just too important not too. In fact it was so important that I have kept that snapshot in a small box of memorabilia for 50 years! I’ve spent a career documenting some of the most incredible places, people and events of my time.
They inspired me to be a storyteller. I used to orally tell stories to just about anyone who would listen to me when I was a very young child. But when the Beatles hit the scene, about the same time I started noticing the opposite sex, I turned my fantasies into my own written stories. I’m still writing stories and now translating them into ePubs, books and movies.
They expanded my universe. I began to “see” things differently because of the Beatles. I became aware of different cultures, countries, music and wit. It was like an awakening for me and I knew then that I wanted to explore as many cultures and experiences as I could. I’ve spent a lifetime exploring the unknown.
They taught me to always learn, grow and challenge myself. I grew up as a child and later a teenager, during one of the most pivotal and changing decades in America. As the Beatles moved beyond the “feel good” and innocent lyrics of songs like “She loves you…..yeah, yeah, yeah”, to the lyrical depths found on the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, I too was changing. It was like we were growing together. I remind myself daily to always be learning, exploring, growing and challenging myself and that has helped me stay fresh in my career.
I learned that “The Beatles” were more than the sum of 4 individuals. John, Paul, George and Ringo all brought their own unique talents and personalities to make up the most phenomenal band of all time. But they were also savvy enough to know they needed expert guidance and collaborated with great people like Brian Epstein and George Martin. It taught me the importance of collaboration and to surround myself with people who have talents that I don’t possess.
We lost one of the icons of photojournalism last week, Bill Eppridge. If you haven’t heard of his name, then surely you have seen his photographs. One of his photographs, a black & white image of the lifeless body of Senator Robert Kennedy on the floor of a hotel kitchen after he had been murdered, has become one of the signature images of the 1960’s. It has been etched into my memory since the first time I saw it in 1968.
Bill was one of his generation’s greatest photojournalists. His images graced the pages of Life Magazine, documenting the tumultuous decade of the ‘60’s. His colleagues at Life at that time included notables such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, George Silk, Paul Schutzer, Eve Arnold and Bob Gomel. I know that because I used to pour over our weekly copy of Life Magazine and I saw their names printed under their photographs.
Imagine that, a photographer’s credit appearing under their image. I say that sarcastically because nowadays photographers’ credits seem to have all but disappeared. If an image (especially a stock image) is credited in a magazine, many times it will only say “Getty Images” or “AP”. Why is that? It doesn’t cost the magazine any more money to credit the photographer who shot it – nor does it take anything away from Getty or AP. Why not credit an image ie: photographer name/Getty Images? When and why did someone somewhere at Getty or a publishing house decide to omit a photographer’s name?
It seems to me, that in the virtual world we live in, where trust and authenticity has given way to blurred or hidden identities, we would want to know who the person was that took the picture we are looking at. We all know a corporation didn’t go out and shoot it – sometimes putting their life on the line.
As a photographer, I insert a clause in my contracts that states that a penalty will be charged if my credit is omitted. That is if it’s my contract, but too many times stock photo agencies don’t require a photographer’s credit and in fact don’t seem to want it. Why? I would love to know why. I also wonder if this new precedent will affect our future photographic archives by making them less tangible, less personal. That would be a tragedy. What makes an image linger in our minds, decades after a picture is taken is that it makes the captured moment – real. I can assure you that when a photographer decides which moment to capture, it’s about as real and personal as it gets. Why not give credit to that moment and that photographer who captured it? Don’t you think that future generations will appreciate it if we do?