Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Queen and the Snapper

Years ago Annie Leibovitz took the pictures for an interview with Keith Richards I did for Vanity Fair. I wasn't at the shoot and I only met Leibovitz briefly. She was surrounded by assistants and we just said a quick hello. It was enough to put me in my place. I remember thinking my copy need say little more than, 'Here are some nice pictures of Mr Richards by Ms Leibovitz.' I've often since had the humiliating feeling that, when big photographers are involved, the writer is an inconvenient afterthought. He has no assistants or stylists, he doesn't have hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment and, chances are, he will be visibly poorer. Photographers are also professional liberty-takers. I still remember the sharp intake of breath when I phoned The Sunday Times magazine from LA to assure them that the photographer had arrived with all six of his assistants.... breath, long pause.... 'SIX! What the f....!' And, if photographers can steal the time allocated for the interview, they will. The only time I've ever employed physical force on a story was against my own photographer. But, hey, I like the guys, I really do. All of which is inspired by an exchange that took place between Leibovitz and the Queen.  Leibovitz suggested she take off her crown for a more informal, less dressy effect. "Less dressy? What do you think this is?' responded Her Majship before flouncing out. Sometimes you just know she's on our side.

26 comments:

  1. Or possibly, "Sometimes you know she considers you lot peasants. The audacity to speak to her as if one were relatively n the same playing field of species..." Though a photographer's bruised ego is surely a boon.

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  2. Sounds like you need to establish common ground between yourself & your photographers - at the moment they regard you as an almost alien species, The Writer. It might help to say, "Hey, i took a photo once, with one of those polaroids. It was all right. Not a proper hobby, like, but not bad for some. Have you ever thought about sheds?"

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  3. Or, you could use the daring conversational gambit, "I always find the camera has a great aura of raging phallus power."

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  4. I'm with the Queen; I bet Leibovitz didn't speak to Keith Richards like that. I wonder if Keith can remember ? I wonder if Keith can remember.. ...........well, anything ?

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  5. or possibly, point at their equipment with a concerned frown, and say, "Looks like you've picked up some ideological collateral damage there. i had that once."

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  6. I can't imagine the Queen "making love to the camera". Or making love to anything for that matter. As for photograhers' egos, I'm sure it bugs them that it is getting easier and easier for all of us to take a half-decent picture with the technology available (although most of mine still feature a thumb). On the other hand, it ain't getting any easier to do a good interview or write a half-decent article.

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  8. Though, JOhnny, she cxould have tried to behave like a normal polite civilised soul and simply said no to the request. The flouncing off would seem the action of a spoilt brat. Though I suppose if we took any random ordinary person and subjected/treated them to a lifetime of being addressed by fawning lackeys as "Your majesty" or "Your Highness", then a spoilt brat would probably be the most likely outcome of the experiment. This would in turn come to be exalted as an "aristocratic aura."

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  9. Andrew, the latest news is she didn't flounce off. Moronic media types edited a sequence to imply that she did. The BBC has issued an apology. Sometimes, for all his faults (and hypocrisy), ones does believe Alistair Campbell has a point about our idiot media. In the meantime, God Save the Queen!

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  10. You could always try putting them at their ease.
    'That dutch chap, Rembrandt, used one of those things. You've tried his method of capture, hmmm'.

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  11. Susan B., Leibowitz fan,July 12, 2007 12:54 pm

    Annie L. sees the inner self of her subjects better than any living photog. Saw her show last year at the Brooklyn Museum of Art -- lots of photos of Susan Sontag (her partner) with their kids and then dying of cancer (and then dead!), but they really were a tribute, not a vulgar revelation. I actually liked Sontag (a woman I'd always felt was a bit of a p.c. prig) much better after seeing her courage, warmth in the photos.

    And the celeb photos were simply astonishing. Wish she'd do one of you Bryan: She'd show you -- and the rest of us -- who you really are!

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  12. There you go, Rumi. As ever one should never look to the media for truth. What was that Thonmas Jefferson quote again:

    "I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies."

    No, wait, that's not the one.

    "Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper."

    Though my experiment would still most likely end with the spoilt brat.

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  13. It seems to me that the Queen (and Bryan) had a far better sense of the moment than Leibovitz or Andrew. Susan B. is right about Liebovitz's talent. At the same time, I believe every word Bryan wrote about photogs in general.

    It sounds like you are under a high degree of stress or are having a particularly bad day, Andrew. Far from your usual chipper self. Here's hoping it passes.

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  14. A better sense of a moment which it seems didn't happen, Ronin? If it did happen as reported then I stick by my howitzers in thinking that the spoilt brat hypothesis fits the moment better than this signifying the Queen's being on the side of the peasants.

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  15. i'd say that regarding the media, an attitude either of docile credulity, or of total suspicion & incredulity, is unwise. Delouse by all means, inspect & examine & consider the context, the journalist, the paper, the owner, but i think to say, Chomsky-like, that all papers are utterly wrong, is as foolish as believing everything they say. Having said that i don't read papers or listen to the radio, and have only seen the telly once in the last 3 years, so i'm hardly a media expert.

    But a degree of common sense is useful. i don't have much of it, but enough to know that from what i've heard of HM, she seems quite patient & sensible, so is unlikely to storm out of a publicity session unless provoked.

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  16. it's not really relevant, but one reason to regard newspapers a little warily is that i feel journalists feel obliged to big up their observations, to announce that their piece is immensely important & significant, so instead of 'scientists find that booze doesn't seem to harm some people' we have 'science proves booze good for you!' - everything tends to be polemical, exaggerated, as in a funhouse mirror.

    At least blogs seem to be free of this, by not really needing to sound authoritative & definitive. By being apparently trivial, a bit silly, they can maybe avoid some of that 'here's something tremendously exciting i've discovered!' bull, and just be 'an observation' or 'maybe...'

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  17. A key figure of the last century in the use of the media as a propaganda tool was Edward Bernays, who wrote "'Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country'.
    Also, this from David Rockefeller, founder of the Trilateral Commission, in June of 1991 addressed a meeting of that organization. 'We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination [read as 'democracy'] practiced in past centuries.'

    When one of the key world figures thanks the media for doing its job by presenting a false, shallow lens on the reasoning behind political events, then I think it's fair to say that the mainstream media is to be taken with the merest of pinches of salt in issues of any consequence.

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  18. Andrew, you must immediately read the Dark Age blog at www.darkage.ca from the beginning to the end. You will sit there, muttering "this is true" and "that explains why that bloke always looks at me when I go to Tesco", and so on.

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  19. Andrew

    You must stop TRYING so hard with your posts.

    "Spoilt brat"? Well I doubt that any of us could get to the age of 81 and not be pissed off sometimes at other people's behaviour; especially when you add a 'celebrity snapper' to the mix.

    In any contest as to who was the most gracious, I would have my money on the Queen.

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  20. It occurs to me that this could all have been avoided if Annie had just photoshopped the crown out.

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  21. As I understand it, the reported flouncing didn't happen, Andrew. The comment did. My remarks were in response to the reported comment.

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  22. No one has asked whether the resulting portrait is any good. Is it? I haven't seen it. In the absence of the work, this has become just another celebrity story which the BBC has ballsed up splendidly and so turned into a lying BBC Lefties story. No celebrity could get the better of HM who isn't a celebrity anyway. I'm sure Annie Leibovitz was very well aware of that too.

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  23. Brian
    Not only do you seem believe in the junk 'science' of man-made global warming you also believe this bollix of a story.

    Not sure it's a good thing they are removing the word 'Gullible' from the dictionary with people like you around.

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  24. it not a very big copy but it's all I could find. I just hope it's the right one!
    Maj

    ho hum, just what we needed, another snap of the old girl wearing the bling we bought her with our hard earnt money. well at least we got the photo so we know what it looks like.

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  25. Bryan, as one whose first name and surname are both misspelt more often than not ("No, there is no 'd' in Rogers and only one 'l' in Randal, thank you!"), I admire your restraint and courtesy.

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  26. God the modern world must be such a bore (or is that an Andrew?) for Her Maj...putting up with all these media muppets deluded with grandeur. Amidst all the North London sqwuaking there was a very touching scene at Tyne Cot Cemetry where the very faintest clenching of royal jaw in response to a Passchendaele-eulogy spoke volumes.

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