Notoriety and Fame: Does it help a photographer?

More and more, especially for photographers, gaining access especially in this post 911 world to various subjects is harder and harder.

I recall in the mid 80’s driving into Boston and seeing a huge billboard which read “Stan Grossfeld shoots People, Places, Sports and Pulitzers for the Globe.”

I was just a college student then and I wondered to myself. Wow, that’s got to be nice. Doors would just open for you everywhere you go.

I think in some instances when the celebrity of the photographer overshadows the subject being photographed, it might get in the way.

Granted the Boston Globe is not going to send their Pulitzer prize winning photographer to cover something insignificant but if they do, what happens if the attention is diverted in this case to Stan Grossfeld instead of the subject of the story?

Selling and promoting your star photographer on a newspaper on this scale is probably the extreme but surely is a bit much. That can’t be said in the case of Annie Leibovitz.

Annie Leibovitz at Work

She is in a different level altogether as far as photographers go.

I read most jaded Hollywood stars who have been photographed all their lives become so “ho-hum” when told they have photo session.

But when they’re told Annie Leibovitz is doing the photoshoot, they immediatley perk up.

Leibovitz’s reputation is so legendary that stars and starlets know a great portrait by her can do wonders for their career especially if a particular star is past their heyday.

I tell my students you should thumb through books and magazines which contain great photography to improve. Study the lighting because that’s usually the hardest to figure out. It’s important to emulate but not copy.

I can’t wait to see this latest book by Annie Leibovitz. I saw a PBS documentary about her work and it was interesting. It didn’t dwell on the nitty gritty details about what the camera settings were for a particular picture.

Rather the documentary focused on her mindset and what she was thinking. That sort of insight is useful for those photographers who have mastered the rudimentaries of photography.

The documentary explored her philosophy and motivation behind her legendary drive and high standards and ultimately her longevity in this extremely competitive field.

So fame and name recognition won’t hurt depending on who writes your paycheck. For the self-employed freelancer, your name is all you’ve got, so the more people recognize it, the better.

But if you work in the ever delicate newspaper industry of today, it is probably not good. The folks who document the news ought to be the proverbial fly-on-the-wall, not the other way around, the magnet of the flies.

Do you agree or am I way off here?