Roger Tooth in today’s Guardian makes an excellent point when he comments about David Cameron, the Prime Minister appointing two visual journalists as ‘vanity photographers’.
“But we’ve had a surfeit of “behind the scenes” pictures of both coalition leaders; too many pictures of Cameron gurning at his new baby have led to this sort of material becoming a devalued currency”.
Quite. As if having the majority of the unquestioning press having bought into the ‘spending review’ to pay for an economic crisis caused by the gamblers of international finance wasn’t enough, Cameron’s ’embeds’ – both of whom have done extensive work for the Conservative Party – have been paid for from the public purse. At a time of alleged attrition. Both have been recruited as civil servants on short-term contracts thus avoiding the normal competitive employment process.
As the true heir to New Labour spin, Cameron (whose only other job was as a PR executive at Carlton) has similarly surrounded himself with ‘advisors‘. The issue here is that unlike the White House Press corp or Presidential photographers, there is little explanation about the context, the voracity or the quality of the ‘historical’ archive that these two will produce. Artists have always had wealthy patrons and the excuse is usually vanity, but to have such control of images at the heart of government seems to me a paranoia par excellence.
I’m sure that the images will be carefully crafted to show just how much the former PR man, married to an Astor and his chancellor (a man who will inherit a knighthood and the fortune of the present Baronet of Ballintaylor) are really just like us and are also having to tighten their belts. We are all in it together … I’m also sure that the images will be used by lazy picture desks clamouring for ‘intimacy’. Interesting though that the prevalence of military embedding in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has spread and, in the age of ‘citizen journalism’, just how much the Centre is able to get its message out in exactly the way that it wants.
Sometimes however, there are more important things than photography and journalism. At a time of the dismantling of the post-war consensus, the welfare state and perhaps the very idea of a society perhaps we as citizens should ask of these appointments: cui bono – who benefits?
Here are some pictures from an assignment for the Times Magazine on David Cameron that I think were intimate, human and, despite my personal opinions, I gave what I felt to be a fair and balanced impression.
Because that was my job.
As a journalist.