Surviving as a cameraman abroad(Category: Texts)
There are a lot of books written by foreign correspondents which are exciting travelogues but only a few give useful insights into the skills, knowledge and equipment you need if you want to survive as a cameraman abroad. The free ebook from the British BBC lensman Christian A Parkinson combines both in a pleasant way — but has some quirks.
Christian Parkinson needed to write a little book with helpful tips and tricks since he want to prevent other cameramen from a long trial-and-error phase he experienced when he started in the industry. Even though he searched for as much information as possible he often found only books which only rarely exceed the mere description of travels:
Most books by cameramen though are adrenalized travelogues that barely touch on the skills, equipment and knowledge. Therefore, Chris’ book is a collection of hints which shall make the entrance into the industry easier.
What tribe does the driver belong to?
A lot of hints are so clear that you could miss these important points. Of course, it’s very important to know your driver’s name as well as his or her cell number even if you don’t speak the local language well — particularly in conflict zones. Surely, it is extremely important that you are always very friendly and a team player otherwise you can easily get into big trouble.
But there is a lot of other not so obvious information which e.g. target societal mannerism and are not known by many Western journalists because some of the manners may appear weird to eurocentric socialized journalists that they don’t waste any thought on that. That foreign correspondents often cover many countries for only a short time and don’t specialize in one country is another reason for less knowledge of the different cultures. Such a big question is the ethnic group your driver belongs to since it could be possible that you have to go to an area there a rival group has the upper hand. Your driver might most likely be the first to suffer if you enter a road block or another check-point.
Two major chapters deal with the work in conflict zones, a Conflict Check-List explain what you have to put in your grab bag if you want to travel to a barren or remote area. Additionally, there are some weird tips e.g. that you should check whether the soldiers you are standing by have engaged the safety at their weapons because
it is not uncommon for badly trained soldiers to fire rounds by mistake.
I was a cameraman, not a soldier and I was armed only
with my DSR-500 video camera and a Canon wide-angle lens.
The tips are supported by many graphic experiences so the reader gets a good feeling why it isn’t that wrong to carry an additional, even less professional camera. Furthermore, a lot of links to other resources are provided like videos on his own website or resources of other journalist (such as the very interesting blog of Adam Westbrook) so that the reader is served with a huge amount of practical lessons.
Even though I like the many links in the book, the urls impair the reading fluency. It would be better to use footnotes or info boxes. Additionally, I think Chris gave opportunities away to link to more of his blog posts on www.imagejunkies.com and www.caparkinson.com.
In a later edition of the book, Chris should eliminate some grammatical and typing errors as well as work on the graphic display. Furthermore, links from the table of contents to the chapters would be great, and he has to check some misleading links.
All in all, the positive aspects overbalance the negative so the reader should grab the book since it gives a very interesting insight into the world of foreign video journalism:
It’s a job that offers everything: Adventure, travel, artistic expression and the chance to have a front seat as history is made.
Christian A. Parkinson (2011): Lensman: Working as an international news and documentary cameraman. The book is available as an eBook under the Creative Commons License BY on the author’s website. Feel free to add your thoughts or even ideas for improvements.