October 20, 2014, 06:58:52 PM

Author Topic: How do you become so famous that you have assistants to do it all for you?  (Read 4493 times)

GuyF

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I wasn't sure which forum to post in so decided this one might be best.

The BBC has a series of programs that show what various types of artist do on an average day - painters, sculptors, graphic novel artists etc. They just showed one on famous photographer, Albert Watson.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03y85dl/What_Do_Artists_Do_All_Day_Albert_Watson/

I've got a couple of his books and do like much of his work but the program just left me feeling rather sad. He spent the day driving 'round Skye in the Scottish Hebrides with 3 assistants in tow. One would set up the camera (a Phase One) and tripod, one would hold an umbrella to stop the strong wind shaking the tripod and the last one carried the tethered laptop and did all the post production. Time after time Watson was shown just pressing the shutter button while the assistants did everything else.

Clearly a half-hour program won't show the full story but I was quite saddened to see Watson do very little other than say, "yes, this is a good spot, the light will change in a moment". Meanwhile the assistants set everything up for him.

Before any of you leap on this post and say most top photographers use assistants, I agree - for a studio or location shot with lights, props and a human subject, that's understandable but this was straight forward landscape stuff!

Needless to say though, the results were superb. However, if you're familier with Skye, anyone could get excellent shots there - especially a Phase One.

For those not familiar with Skye: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/creative/old-man-of-storr-stock-photos

Sorry for the grumble, it just annoyed me a bit.

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IMG_0001

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A tad off topic, but I for one managed to take mostly boring photos there.... although I loved the place. I just was not able to render  the feeling of the Isles in my pics.

On the assistant thing, I'm not that troubled by the assistant thing. I think the assistants mainly provide the best possible environment  for the 'star'. And honestly, many of the photographers from the film days did not develop or make prints themselves, although they provided inputs on the desired output. Even great painters from the renaissance (and before) had emules working for them and appropriated their work. I think that leaving the post processing to a 'specialist' in the tools while providing the artistic input is alright.

Of course, I have greater considerations for those who do it all themselves, just as I have more admiration for singers accompanying themselves at the piano than for a singer that just stands.
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Hillsilly

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C'mon, the guy is over 70 years old.  Give him a break!  At least he's getting out and doing something he enjoys, and if he's got the ability to have other people do the hard lifting, good on him.
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RGomezPhotos

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All the professional photographers of any age I admire have several assistants setting things up for them. In fashion that is. Definitely. I definitely see them as useful and necessary for bigger projects. And in the upper echelons of fashion photography, you're doing lots more project management and direction. There are so many things going on.

However I never see sports photographers with assistants. I can't see where/how they would? Carrying their gear to the playing field?
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drummstikk

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However I never see sports photographers with assistants. I can't see where/how they would? Carrying their gear to the playing field?

Um…yes. Schlepping gear. I admit the last time I worked a pro game, I was still shooting film. In recent years I shoot sports almost entirely for colleges and conferences, but in my newspaper days, it was not uncommon to see at least one photographer at the NFL game who was equipped head and shoulders above everyone else. This was probably the Sports Illustrated guy, or maybe, in those days, Inside Sport (now defunct). These shooters often had an assistant who would hold the 400mm 2.8 while the photographer was shooting with the 600mm 4.0. At intervals, they'd trade.

Perhaps more important at the time was having an assistant to hand you a body freshly loaded with film when a play was about to start and there were only about 6 frames left on the roll.

But, as the poster observes, assistants in sports may have gone the way of the dodo in the age of digital and ever tightening budgets.
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expatinasia

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I can't watch the video as it is "not available in my area. Pity as Skye does look like a great place to visit, and I will be googling it more later as I may be in Scotland (first time) later this year.

However I never see sports photographers with assistants. I can't see where/how they would? Carrying their gear to the playing field?

I never see any of the photographers at the events I work at with assistants as such, some do have assistants or colleagues in the press room who edit the pics and upload etc others may be writing etc., but not assistants in the true sense of the word. They would be useful at all day events though, especially when you are in need of a meat pie or such like!
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Maui5150

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Clearly a half-hour program won't show the full story but I was quite saddened to see Watson do very little other than say, "yes, this is a good spot, the light will change in a moment". Meanwhile the assistants set everything up for him.


And why is this bad?

For one, these three people, while mainly being gophers for all intent and purposes, are getting invaluable experience whether they know it or not seeing how Watson visions things and how he thinks. 

Perhaps he is more a DP than actual photographer, but it is far more to compose, frame, and recast the light to snap the picture.  More of the upper end of photographers I have gotten to know do more outsourcing of a lot of their retouching, clean up etc. 

How do you become that famous?  Take great pictures, and get a few lucky breaks... Having a wealthy patron or two doesn't hurt.

In the fashion world, if Anna Wintour say, "Get me Albert on the line" i.e. your are known by your first name, as well in her lexicon of artists, you pretty much are there. 

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sanj

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You do not necessarily need to be famous to have assistants. You just need to hire...

expatinasia

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You do not necessarily need to be famous to have assistants. You just need to hire...
So true, and if you can afford it - why not!
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jhpeterson

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Having worked as a photographer almost my entire adult life, I've run across a few of the most famous, several more near-famous and a good many who thought they were.
I started out in photojournalism, back in the pre-digital days. Perhaps because of my chosen path, the ones I considered at the top still processed their own film and made the final prints. I'm sure this shaped my views, that those who were the best earned their reputations the hard wayand mastered every aspect of their craft. To not do so was considered taking a shortcut and avoiding paying their necessary dues.
Even when I became one of the best in my specialty, I've almost always had to do all the work. It's still true to this day, perhaps even more so with digital publishing, market convergence and shrinking corporate photography budgets. This is probably why I have the most respect for photographers who still carry their own bags.
Yet I'll concede, in certain areas of photography, we can't all be one-man bands. Some disciplines require a group effort and great team skills. I know there are a few photographers who have achieved well-deserved fame, even when they do only a portion of the work. But, I'd like to think they earned their status because they can see the big picture and effectively communicate their vision to others.   

Unfortunately, I've found too many whose mark of greatness seems to be solely self-proclaimed. The more elaborate their set appears, the more subordinates running around, all the better. But, they seem to have mastered no more skill than that of the famous American, Tom Sawyer, convincing others to pay to work for them, at best.  And, at their worst, charlatans and truly great... frauds.
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mackguyver

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The more elaborate their set appears, the more subordinates running around, all the better.
LOL - Everyone wants to be Annie Liebovitz :)  Her BTS videos show an impressive amount of assistance, but then again, her works speaks for itself.

I can't watch the video here in the US, but if I'm an old man, I'd like to have assistants if I could afford them, though for landscape photography assistants seems a little unnecessary unless they are tripod caddies.

For fashion/serious portrait shoots, the main reason I quit doing them is because you need assistants to get the best results.  I got tired of dealing with unreliable make up artists, stylists, and assistants and wasn't making enough to afford better, more reliable ones. 

jhpeterson

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LOL - Everyone wants to be Annie Liebovitz :)  Her BTS videos show an impressive amount of assistance, but then again, her works speaks for itself.
There must be something wrong with me. I never wanted to be Annie. I wouldn't mind some of her clients, though!
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mackguyver

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LOL - Everyone wants to be Annie Liebovitz :)  Her BTS videos show an impressive amount of assistance, but then again, her works speaks for itself.
There must be something wrong with me. I never wanted to be Annie. I wouldn't mind some of her clients, though!
I didn't mean you, just the people you mentioned that think they need to have a ton of assistants and huge set to look like a serious photographer, and I'd like her client list, too!

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GuyF

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Some interesting replies. I can't respond to all the points made but will add a few notes:

Albert may be 71 years old but that doesn't mean he is frail or unable to carry a tripod and camera. Skye is a relatively small island and many "views" are available without getting out of your car. Indeed, in one part of the documentary, he takes a shot through the rain-soaked windscreen of his car.

As I said in the original post, I can understand needing assistants for a fashion shoot or similar but landscape? "Yes, yes, you there, move that hill a couple of feet to the left...quickly now, we're losing the light!" ;)

The series of BBC programs is called, "What do artists do all day?" and can be found on Youtube (the Albert Watson one isn't on yet but I guess it's just a matter of time).

I still feel Watson may have taken the picture but he didn't create it wholly by himself. That to me is what the whole creative process is about - my vision, my execution, my result. Of course artists collaborate all the time but, since it's landscape photography we're talking about, shouldn't it just be you with your camera and the vista?

So there you go; one question, many answers.


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I hope there are more posts on this thread.  I'm reading with much interest.

I don't know too many actual pros personally.  Heck, some people think I'm a pro.  (Yeah, right.  I don't think I've earned that title yet.)  But the pros I do know don't have assistants.  Well, except for OFFICE assistants.  They deal with everyone while the pro is travelling and on assignments.  Otherwise everything would fall apart while they are gone for weeks at a time.  But otherwise, all the photography is done using a team of ONE.

I can, however, understand the point that OP is making.  There's a lot to be said for doing the whole process yourself.  But I also see the other side where the 'assistants' may be working for free or for the experience so they have have themselves connected to a well known artist.  All I know is that if someone wants to use assistants, I think it's just up to them.  Their choice.  I respect the drive and determination of independent guys/gals doing it all themselves but sometimes it may not be the best arrangement.  Someday maybe I can comment from a more experienced and famous perspective.  LOL!!

Me myself, I would love to have a helper sometimes and that's when I deputize someone and hand them something and say, "Would you mind holding this for 30 seconds?"   ;)



Yes, but what would  surapon  say ??  :D

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