Creative spontaneity and the art of 'the wrong angle' – a lesson from news photographers
"I didn’t have a particularly great position in the street that day – places are marked up by a draw of names from a hat, so the classic head with No.10 behind it wasn’t possible."
Jason Bye's recollection of how he found himself in seemingly the wrong place for this photo of Theresa May was one of the standout moments from last night's talent network event hosted by Speak Media – focusing (excuse the pun) on our highly experienced pool of press photographers.
The isolation it depicted – as emphasised by the side-on angle (Jason having missed out on the prime 'head-on' spots on that particular day) – actually came to symbolise May's premiership. The wrong place perhaps, but at very much the right time – and Jason knew this shot would tell a different, and deeper, story to the one that everyone else was intent on capturing.
"I’d worked with Theresa May quite a lot when she was Home Secretary and she had always struck me as a rather lonely figure, which is quite odd in politics ... whilst she stood alone at the lectern with her husband looking on I was reminded of Margaret Thatcher and her husband Dennis. The three-way split of him, the door and her speaking made for a photograph that told the story of a marriage as well as the appointment to the office of Prime Minister. It also pre-empts the loneliness that would be a hallmark of her premiership."
This brings home the beauty of an editorial approach to capturing stories – and why it's so important to brands looking to distinguish themselves with authentic content.
Indeed, if you're looking to generate something unexpected and genuinely newsworthy for your audience, you need to allow room for on-the-spot creative decisions.
Ant Upton (another member of our photography network, drawn almost exclusively from the news and business press) picked up the theme, with reference to a shoot for one of Speak Media's financial services clients (below). What could have been a straight-forward corporate headshot provided the opportunity for this 'snatched' view of our subject through the external glass walls of a Canary Wharf tower. Something unplanned, and quite brilliant, as it turned out. It certainly made our picture editor's day.
The lesson, if there is one, is that when applying editorial principles to creative content for clients, the brief is there to guide the talent, and reassure the client, but (unlike the more formulaic approach of traditional campaign photography) it favours spontaneity over air-brushed sterility. It's riskier, of course, but in the hands of the right people, you're guaranteed to capture something more magical, in the moment. And that's something that – even in the mainstream news media with diminishing budgets for photography commissioning and the nurturing of talent – is increasingly rare. As Ant said: “Working for clients with Speak's content team allows us to be creative and spontaneous with our briefs, which is a luxury these days.”