Epiphanies can happen in strange places. A weekday, noon, in a borrowed, darkened apartment. I was funneling the last bit of tanned flesh of a writer friend of mine into a black corset while a photographer waited in the bedroom.
That’s when it hit me.
There’s a three-letter word for what editors really want: Art.
Show and tell journalism is becoming standard practice.
My friend had written a first-person piece about relationships and the publication wanted Art to go with it. And what better illustration than a hack who looks fabulous in lingerie?
Shrinking budgets, growing tolerance of amateur or merely illustrative shots as opposed to good photography, cheap digital cameras and video, phone cams and all the ways Internet has made it easier to send and share are factors in the importance of providing Art.
But Art means endless aggravation for writers.
You take photos, they suck. Your video is wobbly, your audio murky, your screen shot is crooked.
A penchant for blindess to the foreground nosepicker or dilettante hand blur has sent me back out to shoot on deadline more than a few times.
Or you take photos, editor misplaces them. You don’t take photos, editor wants them. You take photos, they go with an illustration instead.
It is wise to set personal boundaries about Art. I will ignore inquisitive looks while photographing gym equipment, climb up on fences to shoot drying laundry and foment train platform discontent to procure Art.
I do, however, draw the line at being the subject of Art, unless the photo is postage-stamp small or the publication will pony up for someone who can guarantee the results won’t resemble a cheap escort ad or wonky book jacket.
As the afternoon photo shoot wore on, my friend and I had a good giggle over the fact that it probably took longer to do the Art than write the article.
But freelancers don’t get out enough, ever, and this involved playing dress up. We tapped the makeup artist for tips, though the best of these — white pencil to highlight the bow and lower curve of the lips for “luminosity” — turned out to be an express ticket to grotesque with inexpert hands.
We left the apartment while the photographer and his assistant were packing up the last cables, feeling like we’d actually accomplished something. Or at least enough to warrant large gin & tonics at an outdoor café at an hour when the waiters felt obliged to shoo us away from the happy hour buffet.
It was all in the name of Art.