Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 164

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 167

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 170

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 173

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 176

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 178

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 180

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 202

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 206

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 224

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 225

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 227

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 321

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 321

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 321

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/includes/class.layout.php on line 321

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/admin/class.options.metapanel.php on line 56

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/admin/class.options.metapanel.php on line 56

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/admin/class.options.metapanel.php on line 56

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/rawtaken/public_html/wp-content/themes/platform/admin/class.options.metapanel.php on line 49
Tim Clayton, Sydney Morning Herald | RawTake

Tim Clayton, Sydney Morning Herald

Tim Clayton is British but has lived in Sydney, Australia for many years. Is that a contradiction, or what? Contradiction may be in Tim’s nature. He was one of the first and few ever to create an independent sports photography staff at the Sydney Morning Herald. He is both wry and serious at the same time, and has a great accent.

Mike met Tim in 1998 during Photofest New Zealand. What a hoot. They taught a Missouri workshop-style venture organized by Kiwi Melanie Burford (photographer at The Dallas Morning News). Carol Guzy (The Washington Post) was the other American on the faculty.

So let’s listen to Tim:

{RT} You were one of the first people on the planet, except sports magazines, to realize the value of a dedicated sports photography staff. Would you talk about how and when that happened and how it has evolved over the years at the Sydney Morning Herald?

Clayton: I think there was a realization in the earlier ’90s that the old all round ‘Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none’ press photographer was a thing of the past…if you want to take the quality of your photography to the next level you have to specialize. Obviously, it is better to have specialists photographing what they are truly passionate about. This happened in many areas on the photographic coverage—sports, hard news, features, portraiture; all benefited from a new way of thinking. In sports, we are very fortunate in the fact that Australia is a huge sporting nation with a great diversity of sports in which Australians excel. We started off with one specialist, Craig Golding. I soon joined him and Steve Christo joined soon afterwards. We have steadily evolved and that is the beauty of photography. If the fundamentals are in place, you never stop learning and improving.

Photograph by Tim Clayton

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} You and the Morning Herald staff have won more awards than your
numbers would suggest, year after year. Why is that?

Clayton: First, Australia, and particularly Sydney has suddenly produced an amazing amount of quality photographers across all areas of photojournalism over the last decade. The fact that we are rubbing shoulders with like-minded, passionate, dedicated people who live, eat, and breath photojournalism, who are all trying to improve and reach the next level just causes a feeding frenzy of knowledge and desire in a positive sense. Trent Parke has become Australia’s first Magnum member, and he is certainly regarded as the pinnacle of what has been achieved in Sydney over the past decade. In many ways the small core of dedicated SMH (Sydney Morning Herald) staff has contributed to this by being a part of the bigger picture, looking beyond the wants and needs of the newspaper.

We are like most newspapers, run by word people for word people. Generally they want pictures for ten-year-olds and have little or no understanding of photojournalism at the top level. The paper has no space for story telling through photo essays, and we live an animal farm existence. ‘Everybody is equal, but some are more equal than others’.

What has actually happened is many photographers have evolved beyond the wants and needs of the newspaper. We are shooting stories that don’t get published and shooting personal projects to keep our brains stimulated. The ‘cat sat on the mat’ images pay the bills. In many ways it is a sad reflection of photojournalism today, there are so few places where top end photojournalism can be seen.

We have achieved because the want, and desire of a few has risen above what is expected and gone to the next level. The Land Diving story is a great example. It is self-funded, shot in my own time and rejected twice by my own paper for publication simply because there is no where to really show a story like that in depth. It is truly sad! I have cried and screamed and drank, but you still have to get up in the morning and want to take a great picture. It’s what we do and how we live.

Photograph by Tim Clayton

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} Most of the photos of sporting events I’ve seen from you and your staff goes beyond showing armpits. How do you make that happen?

Clayton: We make sure the players have their shirts on…. Only kidding. Craig, Steve, and I made conscious decisions years ago to move beyond the stereotypical sports image. We are always looking for something different. If you consider there are over one hundred sports and if you shoot these only once a year, you still have an amazing amount of variety to shoot beyond the bread and butter norm of whatever the main sport of your country.

In minority sports they let you in with open arms and give you access, something you just don’t get now in top line sport. Then it’s a matter of failing forward each time you shoot; so next time you shoot that sport you are a little bit wiser.

We are also lucky that we have had great support from the many sports editors and sports staff we have worked with. Trust has been built: we shoot the images they want and they give us the freedom to explore and create the images we like to shoot. Somehow it works well in sports because there are so few people making the decisions, whereas in other sections they seem to have more cooks putting their wooden spoon into the mix than they have at the Savoy Hotel! And of course everybody is a photography expert other than the picture editor!

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} Do you think there is a different aesthetic in Australia from other parts of the Commonwealth and other countries? Oh, wait, maybe commonwealth isn’t a good association.

Clayton: No, it’s all about attitude. In the UK where I learned my trade, they used to say “You are only as good as your last picture,” in Australia they say “You are only as good as your next picture.” Attitude is everything!

{RT} How are newspapers doing in your part of the world?

Clayton: They seem to be holding there own and the SMH is slowly clawing back readership which is a good sign. We suffer from a lack of competition with some Australian cities only having one newspaper.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} Is there a type of photojournalism that isn’t being done, or that should be done more often?

Clayton: Photojournalism is still in its infancy. We have only just begun. The possibilities are endless for story telling.

I think competitions are polarizing the extremes, the worst of humanity is shown most of the time, this is understandable but, we are neglecting Daily Life in a big way. The everyday existence which can produce beautiful stories on almost any subject; however, mundane it may seem, can still be shot in a beautiful way to tell a story about some aspect of life. I think competitions need to create three or four more ‘Daily Life’ categories and encourage more story telling. And newspapers need to embrace this!

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} The Land Diving story you did that World Press awarded a first place was black and white – and stunning. Did you make the photos digitally? Why black and white?

Clayton: Thank you for your kind words. Funny enough, it was part of an internal rebellion against the advancement of technology. I spent ten grand last year on new film cameras and film with a specific in mind that I wanted to go back to the craft I had learned: black and white film. It really is a beautiful medium. When I found the story I didn’t even think of shooting it any other way than with black and white film. I did take a digital camera and a remote so I could shoot unique angles impossible to make with my film cameras, so a couple of the frames in the story are on digital. It helped in those moments when you need to reload your film but amazing things are happening before your eyes.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} How have technical changes in photography – digital rendering of images, fully automatic focus and exposure, etc. – affected how you make photographs?

Clayton: Amazingly I think the technology has completely hindered the development of sports photography in many ways. Yes, the bigger faster stronger quicker has conveniently made our job easier, but are we producing better sports photographers now because of this? I think the answer is a big no. First, the internet and the ability to see images minutes after they are created have simply created a whole new breed of photographers who plagiarize constantly. They are at a big event, they see an image taken by one of the wire services that they like, and they go and stand in the same spot and recreate that image. Some photographers even simply recreate the image they have seen in the paper that morning, go along to the event, stand in the same spot, and hey presto…They have a great picture which somebody else saw and shot the previous day! Amazing!

The other problem is for some reason competitions still reward sports portfolios containing single images. Competitions have categories for single images; it’s the single image category. No other category of photojournalism contains a portfolio of single images because they are story telling! And this is the most crucial part for the development of sports photography, we have to encourage story telling in a big way so the average sports photographer goes beyond the single image and starts challenging their brains to create unique stories…and not recreate someone else’s single image which they saw twenty minutes ago!

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} You transplanted to Australia from the U.K. Have you stayed in touch with folks on the other side of the ponds? What’s your impression of photography in the U.K.? And how does it compare to other countries? Maybe that’s similar to the aesthetic question, maybe not.

Clayton: I was glad to get out of Britain at the time. Britain has totally under achieved for decades simply because they have an attitude that they think they are better than everybody else in the first place. And they are not! Leaving Britain opened my eyes up to the big wide world of photojournalism and taught me how to ‘see’ in many ways. Thankfully, I think things are improving now and I’m sure many negative attitudes are changing partly because it is much easier to share knowledge and the smart people can quickly educate themselves in the finer points of photojournalism.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} What advice would you give to photographers just beginning?

Clayton: Photography is a universal language. You have to read it every day, and speak it every day and learn it every day. Your passion for photography has to flow through your veins, you have to be driven by a V8 turbo inside you…if you have Vespa inside you, go and get yourself a flat white and forget it…You have to love photography so much you are willing to sacrifice almost everything else in your life for your love of photography. Date other photographers who are equally passionate, nobody else will understand and your relationship will be doomed!

Make Magnum your home page and learn everyday from the top of the profession. Remember you are never there, so don’t get a chip on your shoulder. Remember there always is another level and keep working towards getting to that level. Always respect the subjects you are photographing and remember it is not about you! Always be humble, there is a photo God! Never stage a photo. Never plagiarize. Arrive early and stay late. You have to wake up every morning and want to take a great picture. Don’t ever get drunk before a big shoot…which could be tomorrow…work on developing a unique eye because this is the single most important thing that will set you aside from the rest. If you do all the above you have a 1% chance in making a name for yourself in what truly is the most amazing profession of all! Good luck!

{RT} What makes a sports photograph compelling?

Clayton: I think it’s still the ultimate in capturing THE moment that split second of time that is perfect. I’m still trying to get that perfect moment!

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} If you had a crystal ball that could look into the future of what we do, what would it show?

Clayton: Video killed the still photography star? I don’t think this is going to happen in the short-term. But, realistically when we are shooting twenty meg files at twenty-five frames a second it’s going to create a whole new industry. Until then…I would have to say photography generally is becoming more art based, it seems that this is the only way. The top photographers will survive.

Everybody wants images for nothing, and the large munching agencies have killed the profession of quality. Hamburger and chips now outsell quality cuisine in effect. A reflection of life I guess. The good thing is quality somehow always finds a way to be seen. If the paper and magazines don’t want quality then the walls and the internet will have to do.

As for making money, well, shooting hamburger and chips jobs will have to fund the quality cuisine…and it’s going to get harder. Don’t, I repeat, don’t give up your day job, rather make it work for you to pay your bills and fund your self-initiated projects to keep your sanity! And lets all hope every newspaper and magazine editor gets over their arrogance and ignorance about photography and be humble enough to go and educate themselves about quality photojournalism.

Photography by Tim Clayton, Land Diving

© Tim Clayton.

{RT} What’s the best sheep joke you know?

Clayton: I helped run a workshop in New Zealand recently. On the way to sheep dog trials with a mini bus full of Kiwi photographers I thought I’d crack a sheep joke.

I hear New Zealanders have found a new use for sheep….wool!

Total silence from the Kiwis…a few moments later came the response…from a Kiwi perspective.

A Kiwi and an Australian were walking along the road when they came across a sheep with its head stuck in the fence. “Well I can’t resist that!” says the Kiwi, obviously delighted, he drops his trousers and makes the most of the opportunity. When he is finished, the Australian turns to him and says, “Do you mind if I have a go?” “Not at all.” replies the Kiwi….so the Australian drops his trousers and sticks his head in the fence!

 

6 Responses to Tim Clayton, Sydney Morning Herald

  1. [...] you read them at the Raw Take site instead of mine. Here’s the link to the interview: http://rawtake.net/2008/03/30/tim-clayton-sydney-morning-herald/ Similar Posts:2007 Pulitzer Prize [...]

  2. [...] you read them at the Raw Take site instead of mine. Here’s the link to the interview: http://rawtake.net/2008/03/30/tim-clayton-sydney-morning-herald/ Bookmark [...]

  3. [...] a great interview with Tim Clayton of the Sydney Morning Herald at The Raw [...]

  4. [...] an interview with Sydney Morning Herald photographer Tim Clayton on the Raw Take blog. Check it out here. Make sure you read the joke at the end of the [...]

  5. We’re incredibly fortunate to have, in the SMH photography department, a group of photographers who seem intent on going above and beyond every time they head out on assignment. The best thing is that they don’t just show up for photo calls with the typical news style head-on shot that we’re used to from others and the video cameramen – they look with the artists eye for the angle, the view, the shadow, the highlight, and the beautiful. We’re incredibly fortunate to be the witnesses to their craft everyday. They add to our interpretations of events we could become blase about. Congratulations Tim. You’re a genius and your own photos of the land divers move us beyond the voyeurism of many others who have captured it before, and into their lives, craft and sport.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.