Picture this if you will: the function room of a fairly posh hotel. There’s a prize-giving going on and I’m here to cover it.
I arrived a few minutes early because that’s what I like to do. The kids who are receiving the prizes are there, as are the organisers and sponsors – apart from those coming from further afield, who are delayed.
The event starts late – of course. One wouldn’t expect anything else. Excited Mums are stalking about the room, taking pictures with iPads held in outstretched arms (which can’t be good for the back and neck in the long run, but that’s their problem). I take an unobtrusive seat towards the back, making a few notes – scribbles, actually – in my notebook, just to pass the time. There is nothing happening, so nothing to write about yet. Nothing to photograph either, but try telling that to a Mum with a gleaming piece of birthday-present technology in her hand.
My own camera is digital, half-decent (or was when it was new, six years ago) but small, betraying the fact that I’m not a photographer, just a writer who doesn’t have the luxury of a Canon-wielding sidekick. It has a zoom facility, but not a breathtaking one – put it this way, you’re never going to see the craters on the moon through it. I sidle along the wall and take a couple of shots to see if I’m close enough to the action (guessing where the action will take place). In reality, this is an attempt to look like I know what I’m doing.
But then there appears on the other side of the room the real McCoy: a toggie, a snapper, a card-carrying member of the long lens club, with his swiveling flash unit pointing upwards and backwards, as they do, for reasons we mortals are never going to find out. He takes about a million test shots, checking each one and smirking occasionally. He takes a few without the flash and seems happy with that, too.
Eventually the ceremony begins and the MC stands up and thanks everybody in the room. Then a sponsor’s representative is called upon to say a few words. There is no microphone and she looks like she wasn’t expecting to have to do this. Even as she mumbles inaudibly you can see her cursing the airline, the taxi, the incompetent secretary – whoever is responsible for her colleague’s no-show and her promotion to articulator of business-speak. You can just make out the phrases she’s confident about, such as ‘learning tool’ and ‘social skills’, which can safely be slotted into any talk about young people.
Finally it is time for the presentations and I take up my pre-scouted position, only to find that Mr Shutterspeed is on the opposite side and badgering people into standing a certain way. Look at me. Smile. Blah blah blah. There is no alternative but for me to slink around the back and relocate just behind him. You have to get close, because in this situation he’s the alpha male (although I’ve seen alpha females with long lens syndrome as well) and all those being photographed are going to be looking into his top-of-the-range, handmade-by-craftsmen glass-filled tube. So if you’re not very close to the recipient of this grinning adoration it will appear that nobody was looking in your direction, because they won’t be.
Don’t get me wrong: one of my best friends is a press photographer, but, like graphic designers, they live by the old chestnut ‘a picture paints a thousand words,’ an idea that, I have to point out, can only be expressed in a sentence, not a picture.
And talking of pictures, the media brigade in many parts of the world – or certainly the TV part of those parts – seems to consist exclusively of good-looking young women. Nothing wrong with that, I hasten to add, but isn’t it a coincidence? Don’t tell me they are recruited because they look good on camera – that would be too crass for an enlightened society (and all societies think of themselves as enlightened). It’s not the girls’ fault, anyway, if they have been given a job for a specific reason that adds up to a positive form of sexism.
Just because a girl is easy on the eye, that doesn’t mean she is underpowered in the brain department. But as nice as some of them are, it almost makes me glad to see the technocrat toggies and TV cameramen (because such is the adherence to stereotypes that the person behind the lens tends to be male, just as the undulating presence in front of it is unmistakably female.)
Women have been suppressed long enough. Let’s give them all the top jobs – as long as they can be seen, otherwise you might just as well appoint the best-qualified candidate, and where’s the fun in that?