Thursday, July 26, 2012

Press Association Images

Great day out at PA Images in Nottingham last week. This company is owned by national and regional newspapers and has over 40 staff photographers. The building we visited also houses about 12 million prints, negs and slides going back to 1863. 99% of the work is now licensing digital images to newspapers, magazines and websites with about 1% being sales directly to the public. Specialising in editorial, news, sport and entertainment - primarily known for politics and royal coverage (PA have photographed every wedding since Queen Victoria). They pride themselves on being fast and fair and this is clearly a business about keeping clients happy and ensuring good relationships with potential subjects (especially when it comes to royalty).

PA Images work with Demotix - a ‘Citizen Journalism’ site which aggregates pictures from places where PA photographers would not be (they are always embedded in somewhere like Afghanistan so there is minimal risk)

Discussion subjects included:

When it comes to very hard-hitting reportage - "nasty stuff" as Gareth put it - what is acceptable in one country would not be elsewhere. PA will put AP images on their wire but tend to err on the side of caution. They feel that very candid street photography can overstep their line (of celebrities etc). It would not be in their interests to upset people.

The difference between censorship and filtration. One of the students, Cedric, had some strong opinions about this and seemed to be concerned that the PA was in a powerful position to dictate what is seen by the public. MD Martin Stephens explained that they are not publishers but they follow PCC guidelines carefully and always aim to create and distribute without political or other bias. They are there to 'capture' what is happening. He believes that the value in the image if taken by a PA photographer is that it has assurances of being authentic and neutral. There needs to be an editorial process.

PA sued the BNP for using one of their images without permission. That was not a brand they wished to be associated with in any way.

Maggy asked about how the market for images is changing. In the past, a red carpet shot at a film premiere may have been worth £100 per licence but is now down to £25. Now there would be more agencies vying for market share and even individuals willing to sell at £5 per image. So the news environment is tough. Sports is much better - the PA has good access into clubs so can gain good value. Tablet publishing has also been a blessing as now galleries of images can exist where once only a single picture would have been published.

Martin suggested that finding a niche is key - he talked about Barcroft Media who specialise in "the amazing side of life" - they research, report and photograph and then sell to publishers – e.g. the girl with eight arms in India.

For a PJ, the ultimate accolade is getting the double page spread in the Guardian. Next best thing is to have an image chosen for the picture in the lifts at the PA offices in Victoria. The Kylie Minogue pics always get stolen apparently!

Bob asked what the impact had been of the Leveson Enquiry. Martin felt that the PA's values were firmly in the right place already so no real changes.

Martin recommended that we all each get £5m public liability insurance as it is a pre-requisite to get access to sporting events etc.

Agencies won't accept images unless the photographer was licensed to be there (unless completely unique and amazing capture - eg evidence of John Terry's (alleged) racism that no one else had managed to capture).

The police often request material which is always refused without a court injunction and PA always supply this completely anonymously so no individual photographers can be called to give evidence.

Another discussion point was cropping. PA's policy is that they would not materially change a capture via cropping but are not as extreme as AP which has a no cropping policy. Great problem when photographers feel that a sub-editor has destroyed their image to make it look pretty on the page. Photographers ideally need to get buy-in from the picture editor to submit the pic with exactly THAT crop. Images can be designated as 'no crop' and 'don't archive' but this is often ignored - recent case with Martin McGuiness.

Very interesting analysis of different newspapers approaches to a severed leg in a scene following a terrorist attack.

All in all a really fascinating experience and one which I hope many other students will be able to enjoy in future.

Favourite quote of the day : "I can't read 50 Shades of Grey, it will put me off my TAOP colour assignment!"