My kind of town…

Photo © Bob Krist

I’m just finishing up a 9 day shoot in Chicago and all I can say, with apologies to The Chairman of the Board, is that this is my kind of town too. I feel just about as good as Pistol Pete does in the above snap. Pete is a Chicago guitarist who, I swear, channels more Hendrix than Albert King during his gigs at clubs like B.L.U.E.S.

Spectacular architecture, rich culture, great food, and friendly, really friendly people; why, here, even the Public Relations people treat photographers with respect and they even try to help you do your job instead of telling why you can’t.

Now if you’re not in the travel photo biz, that last statement might be puzzling. Aren’t PR people supposed to help promote their attractions? Not always. In fact, many PR folk will offer more support for Aunt Minnie and Uncle Joe, the septuagenarian travel writing duo from the Podunk Weekly shopper, than a photographer from a national magazine or major agency. Why? Hit the jump for my theory.

Photo © Bob Krist
Photo © Bob Krist

Well, they already have pictures, and they’re glad to give them away, so where’s the juice in helping another shooter get some? In fact, I can’t count the number of times PR folk have offered me pictures so I wouldn’t have to take my own (and bother them!). They wouldn’t dream of asking a writer if he or she wanted a story pre-written for them, but they’re always trying to fob off file shots on photographers

Now that’s not everyone, but you’d be surprised at how many PR folks go all blank and cold fish-like when you say “photographer.” (Which is why I always say “photojournalist” or “writer/photographer”!)

Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case here and everyone from PR folks to club owners to people on the street to Blues legend Buddy Guy has been kind and approachable.

I’ll have an audio slide show on the Blues scene here as well as some tips on where to shoot Chicago skylines on National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel blog in the near future.

Tech stuff: Pistol Pete–D90 with 85mm, 1/125th @f/1.8 at ISO 1600

Crown Fountain–D90, 16-85mm VR, tripod, ISO 400 1/15th @f/4

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Bob,

    I have a theory about the apparent devaluation of photography, at least in newspapers. It’s pretty well known that newspapers have laid off thousands in newsrooms in the last year. What’s not as well known is that photographers and photo departments have taken a disproportional share of the hits. In terms of absolute numbers more reporters than photographers have been fired but percentage wise photographers have taken a much bigger hit. My newspaper has laid off 40 percent of the photo department (and about 10 percent of the reporting staff). Other newspapers have seen similar cuts.

    I think that at some point publishers simply decided that they don’t need professionally made photos. They give point and shoot cameras to reporters or rely on reader submitted photos. And good enough (i.e. sort of in focus and reasonably close to properly exposed) is good enough.

    And I think this has spread to PR people. The prevailing attitude is that photographers are a pain in the @$$. We want to work at odd times of day when the light is nice (before 9AM or after 5PM). We want to disrupt the flow of things (those pesky tripods and / or lights). Trying to rein us in is not unlike herding cats, though we seldom scratch.

    Combined with the new attitude that anyone with a digital camera is now (or can be) a professional photographer and it’s the perfect storm for marginalizing professional photographers.

    I don’t what the solution is but it’s a troubling trend.

    Jeez this is a lot longer than I thought it would be when I started writing it.


    1. Jack: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head….it’s always been a bit hard with PR folks, but now that everbody’s a photographer, it’s going to get a lot harder. Maybe it’s time, as one of my buddies who has shot for NG for 30 years says, to open a bar called “Shooters” and just have a few grizzled veterans sitting at the bar telling stories of the old days! Sounds like one of the better jobs to have these days…kind of like a Walmart greeter with a barstool…do happy hour photoshop tutorials, and how to balance your Leica on a beerbottle demos….

  2. Some of my best tutorials (both teaching and learning) have been in bars! Favorite was learning to warm your flash through a tall glass of beer… lager, not stout! ;^}

  3. i am so glad you had a great time in chicago – it is such a fantastic town! for ourselves, though, we’ve had SUCH BAD luck with official chicago/IL PR people. we’ve had better luck with contacting organizations ourselves and arranging our own things. this is pathetic, IMHO.

    as to photography, i agree. they have so many free photos and discourage us from taking any. weird trend, eh?!

    great article. LOVE your site!

  4. Down here in Australia you have to do both pretty much. Unlike the States we don’t really have that many magazines who employ just photographers any more. If you look at our publications they’re mostly full of hand-outs from the tourism boards – who if they ask you to shoot for them wanna take your first-born at the same time! It’s getting pretty dire, but I’ve just learnt that now the writers are getting cut out because the tourims boards are giving PR articles to magazines now, and some of them are just running those! One of our major professional photography bodies is trying to lobby the federal government to stop tourism boards from being able to hand photos out to free to people who can definitely afford them. I think it’s a losing battle, the cat is out of the bag.
    Writers get offered free trips all the time to basically anywhere they wanna go in the world but photographers get absolutely diddly squat. Nobody really understands the difference between good editorial-style images and cheesy commercial stuff. And that’s my rant for the day! 🙂

    1. Amen, Paul. It’s healthy to rant, especially when it’s justified!

  5. Dear Mr Krist,
    You write: “Well, they already have pictures, and they’re glad to give them away, so where’s the juice in helping another shooter get some.”

    Are you the same Bob Krist who took pictures for the Florida Keys Bureau, which are given free for publications? How can you complain? It seems you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Paddle a kayak through the backcountry waters of the Florida Keys, and you’ll see one of the world’s most diverse marine life ecosystems. Photo by Bob Krist/Florida Keys News Bureau

    Kayaking through the Keys’ thick mangroves is a great spot to see young grouper, lobster and barracuda. Photo by Bob Krist/Florida Keys News Bureau

    etc… etc…

    1. Rodney: Sorry, but you’re talking apples and oranges.

      Every tourist board needs a library of shots for those publications who can’t afford to send their own photographer. And believe me, there are tons of them. And I happily shoot those for several tourist board clients at advertising dayrates.

      The point I’m making is that some of the less motivated tourist boards try to pawn those pictures off on the photographers from publications who can afford to send their own photographer, just because it is easier than helping out another photographer. The reason the magazine spends the money to send a shooter is that they don’t want the same pictures that everyone else (read “poorer publications”) get. However, it would be destination suicide for a tourist board not to have a library, as it would be career suicide for a travel shooter not to shoot them (providing the initial dayrate is substantial enough to cover the wide usages).

      Do you see the difference?

      BTW, the Florida Keys Tourist board is super at supporting visiting editorial photographers because the man in charge is a photographer himself, and knows the value of getting as many photographers as many shots of his destination as they need. Would that they were all like the Florida Keys, Chicago, Philly and the other places that do a good job with photographers.

  6. The tourist board problem you experience isn’t limited to photographers. I believe it stems from poor understanding of the promotional value of anything other than a print article.

    I have an ongoing assignment to cover California travel for, which is a New York Times Company and more times than I care to count, I’ve been ignored by visitors bureaus (including the one in one of California’s largest cities) or told that they can’t help me because I work online. And that despite the fact that my 10-year-old article about San Francisco’s North Beach, the first one I ever wrote online still get read every day while the newspapers, books and magazines from that far back were long ago turned into recycled paper.

    You figure.

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