Media Types: The shot is in the bag - and so's the single malt

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The Independent Online
THE COMMONLY held view of press photographers is that they are vain, mean and moody. This may be true, but a more accurate description is hapless.

In a war zone, the reporter can surface at lunchtime to glean information about the day's events from colleagues returning from the front. The photographer has to be there, in sight and range of the action, to capture it.

Then he, or she, has to return to the hotel, walk past the reporters languishing over lunch and go to the bathroom to process the film and dry it with a hair dryer. The photographic transmitter (a sort of complicated fax) has to be hot- wired to the phone socket, and an attempt made to secure one of the country's three international telephone lines, always monopolised by reporters.

We are regarded by reporters as personal chauffeurs. They introduce us as 'my photographer', or worse, 'my snapper'. As a result, people often ask a reporter: 'Where would your photographer like to do his snaps? And tell him to hurry up so we can get some lunch.' Well fine, but do not complain when you are photographed with side lighting, which will highlight every pore.

Press photographers struggle to escape physical deformity. Carrying a heavy camera bag, driving thousands of miles and standing around for hours on end contribute to 'photographers' stoop'.

As well as all the obvious equipment, the camera bag has to hold cable release, magnifying glass, hip-flask containing a single malt, and a Swiss Army penknife.

Ray-Ban sunglasses are de rigueur, as is the disinterested posture (which hides all sorts of festering vulnerabilities). But the most important item is the multi-pocketed waistcoat. At the lower end of the scale is the one with the big flappy pockets on the outside. At the other is the designer blouson, available from only one shop in Paris. It has more pockets than any rival, but they are neatly hidden. More impressively, it has a shaped sunglasses pocket on the left shoulder.

My scruffy fishing waistcoat has become a security blanket. It is spattered with oil from the post-war fires in Kuwait, which will not wash out. Everybody assumes I don't do my laundry.

But with the multi-pocketed waistcoat and Ray-Bans accessories everybody wears, all self- respecting press photographers are having an identity crisis. Usurped by fashion. Hapless.