Rabbi Friedman reflected on the many contributions that Jews had made to the civil rights movement, and the prevailing attitude that Jews had "paid their dues" when it came to race relations, and deserved respect if not gratitude in return. This, he said, made that era’s escalating black-Jewish tensions all the more puzzling to many Jews.
The problem, Rabbi Friedman explained, was that Jews who had been political allies of the black race had rarely been friends to black people; that formal support for the "cause" had in few cases been accompanied by anything more personal. This was, he allowed, a problem not peculiar to Jews among white liberals, but the failure of Jews to appreciate this distinction explained why they were so shocked to be the target of racial animosities that the riots had brought to the fore. Rabbi Friedman went on to say that the solution to this problem had to be found on the local, one-to-one level, and couldn’t be mollified by public affirmations of support, political contributions, or the mounting defensiveness that seemed to be the order of the day.
Even today, I think about that sermon a lot—just about anytime I encounter two groups of people that seemingly overcome major hostilities, only to get stuck at the cordiality stage when the opportunity to break through to something more human remains unexplored--even when the stakes are considerably lower.
In the three years we’ve been doing EventDV, relationships between event videographers and photographers have ranged all over the map. While overt hostility is never out of the realm of possibility when a videographer and photographer work the same turf, thankfully it no longer seems to be the norm. But get any group of videographers in a room, sharing stories "from the trenches," as it were, and you’re bound to hear more than a few tales of photographer-videographer skirmishes.
That said, most videographers I talk to describe their relationships with photographers in generally positive terms, recounting good on-site communication, and even fruitful discussions before events about how they can make sure the day goes smoothly. Operating in this spirit of collegiality is a must; generally, if you’re working the same types of events in the same locations from week to week, you’re going to encounter the same vendors again and again. So you might as well start acting like teammates instead of competitors. And as many videographers see it, the reward of the cooperative approach is referrals—which can be a mighty nice reward.
But is establishing a referral network the be-all and end-all of good videographer-photographer relations, or is there an opportunity for something more here that we’re missing if we simply strive to establish the same sort of relationships with photographers as we do with, say, wedding coordinators, caterers, or florists?
To be honest, I hadn’t thought much beyond the "you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours" motive before attending Joshua Smith’s seminar at the 4EVER Group’s Video 07. In between showing samples of his mind-blowing work, Smith talked about the ways he’s developed his art. Foremost among them, he said, is calling up successful photographers in his market and . . . taking them to lunch? No, what Smith does is strike up a dialogue about about imaging principles and shooting techniques, and asks if he can follow them on a shoot and study their craft. As much as he learns from other videographers, he knows that the photographers whose work he admires have much to teach him, too.
I was reminded of Smith’s session when I tagged along on a "Trash the Dress" shoot in Las Vegas this past August (see Trashing the Dress on Film and Video). The stated purpose of the shoot was to take what has to date been a still-photography concept and draw attention to its possibilities for video (and in the process, draw attention to innovative videography in general). But for each of the videographers involved, one real hook was the chance to work with Las Vegas-based "anti-bridal" wedding photography pioneer John Michael Cooper. I asked each videographer how he planned to use the footage from the shoot to market his business, and none of them had a concrete answer. Nor, I suspect, do any of them expect Cooper to start shooting referrals their way.
But the sense of shared enthusiasm and artistic interchange was palpable on that shoot on both sides (I especially enjoyed watching Cooper strap on Darrell Aubert's Smooth Shooter rig) Obviously, all these guys learned at some point that it was in the best interest of their businesses to make the best of the often-awkward intersections of their jobs, but staying out of one another’s way was the last thing on their minds; this shoot was about getting inside each other’s heads. And I guarantee you they all liked and learned from what they saw.
Stephen Nathans-Kelly is editor-in-chief of EventDV.