Defending collaboration, with A. A. Gill and Tom Craig

March 2, 2012

View event here.

By Alan Selby

The advent of new media has seen an increasing pressure placed upon journalists to become multidisciplinary, but often to the detriment of each medium. During an evening moderated by David Campany, reader in photography at Westminster University, writer A. A. Gill and photographer Tom Craig mounted an impassioned defence of collaborations between photographers and writers. The duo were speaking in the lead up to a new exhibition of their work, a collection of 20 of Craig’s unseen photographs accompanied by text from Gill, which is opening at the Flaere Gallery in March.

The audience were guided through an eclectic series of images from Gill and Craig’s travels, which have taken them from the blistering heat of Chad to the freezing depths of the Arctic. As their presentation began, Craig explained that his dissatisfaction with the news media was a driving force behind their collaboration:

“I was becoming disillusioned with the imagery that I was seeing appearing in the news and feature print media. The reason for that was I felt increasingly individual photographers were going to places with very specific agendas. They had a photograph in mind before they even got there… I think it’s a dangerous place to be in, because it represents a place where it’s very difficult to be impartial.”

Discussing the unique marriage of text and imagery that the pair have produced, Craig added:

“I believe that the power of the image and the written word are great on their own, but they’re a lot greater when they’re combined… I’m at an advantage, I can tell the quieter story because I know there are other things that will be said about it.”

Craig provided the foil to Gill’s inimitable sense of humour throughout the evening and, despite claiming that Craig’s interests amounted to taking photographs of people taking photographs, and of the backs of people’s heads, Gill praised his approach:

“What you want is a photographer who’s aware of himself, and aware of changing the dynamic he is in. Tom does that, he’s very sensitive.”

In response to questions from the floor, the pair discussed how they first met on assignment in Chad, and how they approach the assignments that they undertake. As the proceedings reached their conclusion, Gill offered up his own evaluation of their work together:

“What we do gets rarer and rarer, because a lot of journalists now are expected to take their own pictures. A lot of us are expected to have phones that can take print ready pictures. Then there’s everything that’s happening on the internet: everybody is a photographer, and everybody is a journalist. What you have is this babel of karaoke news. I feel like we’re a Farrier and a Thatcher, we’re doing two jobs that are from the last century, but that’s what we do, and we do it well. When we do it well I don’t think there’s anything else that can touch it.”

Watch the event here: