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Photog of the Future?

Sep 8

In Friends, history, Stories at 9:04am



I like it. I’ve certainly lost weight, and have the lean, mean look required for success in the intensely competitive arena of the photographic marketplace nowadays. Strong, elongated, prehensile fingers, and at first glance, it would seem, opposable thumbs which are always useful. This of course was conjured for me by the irrepressible Mr. Hobby of Strobist, who recently mentioned an article on the HSD in this month’s Digital Photo Pro.  He’s done things like this before- taking my face and placing it in the movie poster for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


This is great. David and I spoke last week and I told him such ramblings fit perfectly with two goals I have for the rest of my career: A) Never take myself particularly seriously; and B) Have fun.

Not the first time David and I have gotten a touch, well, goofy, witness our Dubai antics (Shot by the equally goofy Bobbi Lane)…..


Of course this type of activity–a creative imagination plus a bent sense of humor plus knowledge of Photoshop plus access to the internet does create a climate the nuns used to warn us about. You know, “idle minds,” etc. We were urged to go to confession for having an idle mind, which, when you are talking about the mind of a 10 or 12 year old boy, is never particularly, you know, idle. I never really feared confession, to be honest about it, ’cause the priests I would be confessing to back in the day seemed to be in such a perpetually booze fueled state of serenity that virtually nothing you could say to them in the confessional was overly troubling to them, and they would mete out relatively light penances. You would, you know, confess all sorts of goings on in the typically X-rated big top of the youthful male mind, and they would come back with a gin fumed mandate to say five Our Fathers.

Five Our Fathers seemed cheap admission to the realm of my imagination, truth be told. Kinda like paying a nickel to go to a particularly colorful peep show.

I digress. What the ever prescient DH has actually construed with the Gollum idea above is, I think, nothing less than the….Photog of the Future. Hear me out.

Obviously, lean and mean, as I have noted. Doesn’t eat much. Could probably subsist on a diet of rainwater and bark. Remember in the movie, he would jump into a stream, grab a fish, and just start eating it raw? So, imagine the Gollum photog gets booked into a hotel that has one of those aquarium displays with over-sized koi in some algae infested waterway near the reception desk. No bills for dinner! ( I’ve never completely figured out the indoor lagoon thing in lobbies. Why would you want to sit and have coffee and a bagel next to an under tended, foul smelling water display invariably complete with a drizzly waterfall effect that makes it sound for all the world like your table is right next to the urinals in the men’s room?) No matter. This raw fish meal practice would thrill the accountants at a place like Time Warner, ’cause it would cut T&E substantially. Not that it has gone up all that much. They haven’t raised the per diem there (last time I checked) since the 80′s, so you are still supposed to spend something like five bucks for breakfast, twelve for lunch and hoo boy, 25 balloons for dinner. Get crazy! This of course means that if you go to Denny’s for breakfast and have a French Slam and a large OJ, you’re on your own dime for eats for the rest of the day. Your per diem is just as burnt as the toast.

Gollum knew the secret passageway into Mordor, remember? That means the Gollum photog would be most likely devious enough to slide, unaccredited,  into virtually any presidential tight pool, at least for a few frames.

Clothing. Uh, minimal, obviously. The means no special wardrobe to be purchased even for extreme conditions, and certainly no dry cleaning bills. This type of expense has always nettled the accountants. The legendary story that rattles the hallways of the Geographic is of a shooter who was assigned to an extremely cold location and promptly went out and expensed a hugely costly fur coat. The powers that be of course bounced that piece of paperwork back to the wayward journalist. It was turned in again a week later, with the exact same total and a note that read simply….”Find the coat.”

That brazen display of contempt for the accounting process of course is mild by comparison to that of the China correspondent for Nat Geo circa the 40′s. I cannot confirm this, but legend has it this particular scribe received a telex from home base stating, “Mission accomplished, return to HQ.” To which he replied, “Confirm. Can I bring my junk?” To which home base replied in the affirmative. Several months later, an ocean going freighter with a full blown Chinese junk strapped to the deck steamed into the Washington ship basin and the individual in question lived on it for several years.

I never had the benefit of working in those days of shenanigans and largesse. When I came along, the accountants were slowly, Gollum-like, hissing in the ears of the powerful, and loopy, frivolous, “gifts for natives”  expense accounting (an actual category in the old Geographic daily log books) was  rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Closest I came to a whopper was during the first launch and landing of the space shuttle. Hank Morgan, David Strick and I were out in the vast nothingness of Edwards AFB, trying to figure out which corner of the sky the shuttle was gonna drop out of. Hank being Hank, said something endearing like, “So long, sucker,” and brought the hammer down on his rental. I plunged after him, which was a mistake, cause given the dust trail he was churning at 100 plus mph I could see absolutely nothing. But I figured as long as it was dust, it would be okay. If the cloud turned to flames, then chances are Hank met with something truly unfortunate, and I should slow down.

A tremendous crack reported from the undercarriage of the car, and while it still drove well enough, I noticed my gas level was heading south as fast as a dropped rock. Much perhaps, like the rock I had just run over, which plowed a canal in the gas tank wide enough push a supertanker through. Holy shit. David and I started pulling gear outta the trunk like crazy, thinking that a vehicle with a hot engine in the desert sun in the middle of a lake of gas had disaster stamped all over it. I called the car rental outfit and complained that their vehicle had malfunctioned and hadda get towed from somewhere in a couple thousand square miles of desert. They called me two days later, and hadn’t yet been able to find it. Yikes.

I started thinking then about how I could creatively use my expense account to incrementally cover the cost of a Buick Regal. You know, a few high priced dinners, lots of Manhattan cab rides, a camera repair or two…..Sheesh. They did find it, thankfully. But you know, if it was the Gollum photog, there would have been no rental car needed. Food for thought….more tk.

19 Responses to “Photog of the Future?”

Karen Nace says:

on September 8, 2009 at 9:18 am

Joe, have you ever heard the Jimmy Buffett song, “We are the people our parents warned us about” ? It’s an awesome song – you totally personify that for me :-D

john fowler says:

on September 8, 2009 at 9:24 am

Joe, you’re nuts. Love it!

(Just sold an image to Egypt by way of Australia. Food image. Did it like Joe would have. Thanks again for the inspiration.)

Charles Verghese says:

on September 8, 2009 at 9:45 am

Yeah….no car needed….kewl!

But I thinksis that the MCNALLUM needses to be a Gandalf – the white wizard who plays with lights!


Simon Grosset says:

on September 8, 2009 at 10:04 am

There’s an old Fleet Street (used to be the HQ of all UK newspapers) tale about a photographer who bought a camel for transport, in Egypt. The accounts dept returned his expenses claim for the camel with the comment that Lord XYZ (the owner of the newspaper) was concerned for the welfare of the animal, and where was it? The photographer quickly submitted an additional claim: ‘for burial of one camel.’

Anirban Chatterjee says:

on September 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

Hi Joe
That’s a nice satire on the current business. In India, I am sure there needs to be more quality than a Gollum to survive :)
You have a nice day

Ranger 9 says:

on September 8, 2009 at 11:20 am

All those tales about yesteryear’s expense-account spending sprees are amusing, but it’s a bit ironic that they’re appearing on the day Annie Leibovitz’s $24 million loan payment comes due!

Tatiana Boyle says:

on September 8, 2009 at 1:28 pm

When shooting alone in remote, wild & darkish places, these costumes appear very practical to me.

Sean Phillips says:

on September 8, 2009 at 6:43 pm

All I have to say to that is, Wow.

Mark says:

on September 8, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Joe,you’re looking a little thin in that top photo. Hair a little stringy too. Might need a good workout or two. Or a a nice steak dinner…JW Blue too. Who’s expense account does that go on again? :-)

stephen says:

on September 9, 2009 at 1:08 am

HAHA you and david are awesome.

Marshal Ray says:

on September 9, 2009 at 3:54 am


You’ve just completed ruined The Lord of the Rings for me!

From now on I’m going to be seeing Joe whenever I look at #@%&*&$#@ Gollum/Smeagol!

“My precious. He has a D3X and I wants it!!!”

Ottawa Baby Photographer says:

on September 9, 2009 at 7:43 am

Joe, very cool stuff.

Fredericksburg Portrait Photographer says:

on September 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Beautiful photo… or people.. or both? Anyway, hey did you ever post the response for the mystery photograph?

Jim says:

on September 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Gin Fumed Mandate? I was always told it was holy water gone bad.
(your not to throw that stuff away)

Arian Stevens says:

on September 9, 2009 at 11:07 pm

DH looks like he represents the lolly-pop guild.

Hank Morgan says:

on September 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

McNally, I don’t think I said “so long, sucker”; I think there was a mother in there someplace. And it was 110mph. But, ah the pure fun of it all… over served on the flight out, introducing Mickey to Minnie at 35k in the air, all on Discovers nickel.

Uwe Noelke says:

on September 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I like your sense of humor. Keep going ;-)

Ayden Simmons says:

on October 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm

the reception desk of an office is the most important part of an office in my opinion”".

Canister Set  says:

on October 20, 2010 at 5:23 am

the reception desk should be designed as good looking as possible..,

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