The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge are angry at the paparazzi pursing Prince George and Princess Charlotte in public places. Here’s one idea that might make the paparazzi go away – undercut them. How about the Royals employ a photographer to take a steady stream of snaps of the family, in a similar manner to Barack Obama’s official Whitehouse photographer. Snaps of official engagements would likely be free and creative commons. But images where the personal photographer ostensibly has exclusive access could be made available to agencies for a fee. The money paid for any particular image could be donated to one of the Duke and Dutchess’s many charities. Quite a large fee could be charged, and yet still undercut the paparazzi’s asking price, making images of the Royals far less profitable. The harassment should dissipate. Yes, this does equate to the selling of privacy and not something I’d choose for myself. But for the children that our perverse political system designates as future Heads of State, it may be a better option than what they endure at the moment, and help those less fortunate in the process.
Last year I uploaded a collection of Victorian portrait photographs to a set entitled ‘Harriet Bennett’s Photo Album‘. Swollen with the sharing spirit of the Internet, I gave the images a permissive Creative Commons Licience. My hope was that they might act as a prompt or support for other people’s creative projects. The first instance of this hope being realised is ‘Papercuts and Curses‘ by Sam Meekings. It uses my scanned image of a young and now anonymous aquaintance of Harriet Bennett to illustrate a story about a young adventurer. Sam begins his story with a liberating broadside against an old writing cliche:
The standard advice to those thinking of becoming writers is to write what you know. The fact that this is clearly the most ridiculous and restrictive piece of advice imaginable does not seem to put people off from repeating it again and again. Edward Gregory Charles was determined to follow it to the letter: with the pragmatism typical of the late nineteenth century, he made it his mission to fill up his mind with experiences.
It is St Peter’s Square, Rome, on a Wednesday evening in March, as Pope Francis was introduced to the Faithful. I think perfectly captures our time and obsessions and it should be the definitive image of this particular event. I continue to be obsessed with this sort of thing: A mass of people all taking a photograph, simultaneously, of the same historical moment. It seems people (myself included) have an obsession with recording their own version of a shared moment… Even if their version of the sight (in this case, a pope) is grainy, tiny, and out of focus… And even if we can guarantee without a shadow of doubt that a better, professionally captured image, will be available. People would rather watch the special moment through their viewfinder, than with their own eyes. (I said I included myself among those who indulge in this weird practice, and I meant it. My closest even encounter with the Queen, at an opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, was experienced entirely through the view-finder of a Super-8mm cine camera). I think the image above (which, ironically, I had to re-photograph from the Metro free newspaper because I could not find it online) has extra resonance, however. The glowing screens look a little like candles. In years past, I’m sure the Catholic faithful would have indeed held vigil by candle-light as they waited for the ‘Habemus Papum’ announcement. So the constellation of smart-phones here provides a sort of visual pun, the twenty-first century intruding on a centuries-old ritual.