A downside of technology

© Photo Neil Turner.

Anyone who knows me and anyone who has read this blog would probably say that I am keen on technology. I would agree – I’m a geek. Despite my love of the whole digital process there’s one thing about the way that we work these days that I am not so keen on.

What’s that then? I hear one or two people asking. Put very simply, I don’t get to meet or even chat with editorial clients any more. I know that the whole COVID-19 pandemic has put a mighty spanner in the works but even accounting for that I was disappointed and a little bit shocked to realise that I have never actually met any of the folks who have commissioned me to shoot editorial work since well before we went into the first lockdown. Some of that can be explained away by my being based a hundred miles from London where a sizeable proportion of them live and work but even accounting for that I find it really sad that I haven’t got to have a coffee with any of them or even shake the odd hand here and there.

So does that mean that my working relationship with those who commission me isn’t as good as it could or even should be? I’m not sure. My thinking goes a bit like this:

When I was in my twenties I dealt with picture editors and researchers who were the same age as me or a bit older. When I got to thirty I had a staff job and worked with a team whose ages ranged right the way through from early twenties to sixty-plus and we all got on pretty well. By the time I became freelance again I was in my mid-forties and I was still dealing with editors who were around my age with some being a bit younger and a few being somewhat older. Now I’m in my later fifties I rarely deal with anyone who is my age or older.

There are two reasons why this may be an issue. The first is that a lot of younger folks are more comfortable working with people their own age. None of them could be said to be ‘ageist’ but I know from my own experience that having things in common with people with whom you deal is a big plus. When it comes to having a good working relationship age and/or experience are amongst the easiest ways to find things in common. The second is that a lot of younger editors have worked in an era where you rely on technology for everything. The speed with which everything is done means they rarely have the time and probably have never developed the inclination to pick the phone up and talk through a potential assignment. Let’s face it, it’s just faster, easier and generally more efficient to message and email. When the phone rings it tends to be someone a bit nearer my age going a bit ‘old school’.

It’s too late to make new year’s resolutions but I am going to try to make a habit of calling editorial clients. When I’m in town and the pandemic allows me to I’m going to buy them a coffee and get to know them better because I have always found that I have things in common with people and that having a shared interest or background with them leads to a better working relationship; we get to know what makes each other tick.

So here’s an open invitation to anyone who already works with me or anyone who would like to: let’s have a chat on the phone, share a Zoom call or even meet up for a hot beverage some time this year. I’d really like to resurrect one of the bits of this job that I really do miss.

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