Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Future of Paparazzo Photography

     By now, you've probably noticed that our high school sports photos have been unpublished. No matter how poignant or technically proficient those photographs may have been, they're gone.
     The reason for this removal stems from an unpleasant conversation I had with the athletic director of an area high school several days ago. This authoritarian individual dictated that all 4,380 photographs of his school's athletes participating in cross country races, track and field events, and CIAC wrestling events be removed immediately (a daunting task, to say the least). This request would affect the publication of photos taken as far back in time as 2007 (long before this man ever became his school's athletic director). Furthermore, the rant to which I was subjected can only be described as character assassination via innuendo, and it was highly offensive.
     I suppose I also should mention that this athletic director has earned a juris doctor degree, and he has an elite institution supporting him. This man's argument seems to be based on the notion that I never asked for "permission" to take those photos. It should be noted here that the good folks taking snapshots of their sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, etc. are not required to ask for "permission" to do so (cameras are ubiquitous at these events). I was a common fixture at this school's athletic events for over a decade, a familiar face to athletes and coaches alike as I practiced my art (or craft, or however one wants to categorize photography). As a matter of fact, this athletic director is also a wrestling coach, and he has been featured in many of my photos over the course of several years. Furthermore, I have a guaranteed right under the first amendment to document public events, including high school sporting events (ACLU, take note). However, due to this athletic director's standing in the community, I feel as though I cannot simply ignore his request.
     On a peripheral note, this incident has had a negative effect on both my personal and professional reputation, and I have experienced a financial loss as a result of it, even though I have done absolutely nothing wrong. Any attorney (especially one versed in labor law) should be aware that there is something amiss in this set of circumstances.
     As anyone familiar with my high school sports photos already knows, I spent a huge amount of time doing internet research in order to post accurate statistics concerning the events I documented. I would use the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference site, the Connecticut Wrestling Online site, and other, less known sources to accomplish this task. Although photography has always been, primarily, my creative outlet (and an immense source of personal satisfaction), I also wanted to "give back" to the athletes who were the subjects of those photographs; hence, my propensity for statistical research and my desire to post public recognition of their accomplishments.
     As for the student athletes themselves, there was a wide range of reactions to my presence at their sporting events. Some were clearly flattered as indicated by their smiles and poses while in camera range. Others found my presence to be simply amusing. A few reacted negatively to my presence, but I suspect that, in those cases, there was often some adult figure in the background, prompting such negativity.
     My heart has always been with those student athletes, and I've done my utmost to demonstrate sensitivity toward their feelings. (When I myself was a high school student, I idolized the athletes, and some things never change.) For example, I sometimes capture an image that has clear artistic value (e.g., the depiction of raw emotion at a moment of intense competition) which may prove to be embarrassing to the athlete. In those cases, I do not post the photo (even though that decision may prompt me to feel great frustration as an artist).
     At any rate, my pro wrestling photos and my concert photos will continue to be posted on my site. I will continue to attend and photograph pro wrestling events, and I plan to delve into the archives and unearth some old photos of pop stars that you may enjoy. During this time, I expect our view count to drop (due to the lack of high school sports photos), so I encourage those who enjoy my photography to publicize my site whenever and wherever possible.
     Birds have to fly. Fish have to swim. I have to practice photography. This site isn't going anywhere, and I'm not going anywhere. Have no worries. I will continue to post photographs for you until the day I die (and I don't plan on doing that anytime soon). ☺