Example Number One. Walter The Photographer
I’m chatting on the phone with an automotive photography colleague about the state of the industry. In true car photographer fashion, we’re bitching about rates, other people’s work, how we’d have shot it far better, can’t believe we didn’t get the gig. The usual. Then he says, “You hear about Walter the Photographer?”
“What about him?”
“Well, you’ve seen the website, right? Did you know that all of the car manufacturers he appears to have worked with say that they don’t know him?”
“But it says on his website that he has, logos, everything”
“Look carefully’, suggests my colleague. ‘There’s an awful lot of inference there, clever wording and so forth. There are legal letters flying about right now.”
Quite rightly, car manufacturers really don’t like lending their expensive branding to give a high five and a career boost to someone they’ve never worked with. Yet you’d swear that this guy was jetting across the world at the expense of supercar constructors and motorsport teams, living the dream and invoicing that rockstar photographer salary.
Example Number Two. Walter The Writer
I write for three main subjects. Automotive, aviation and buildings to a lesser degree. They’re kind of niche markets, some drilling down to become very narrowly defined, so people know one another. So, I’m meeting up with a car restoration and performance specialist for a chat about a possible feature car. We chat about all sorts of things for far too long (we have a shared passion for helicopters that can become intensely boring to onlookers) and in the course of the conversation, Walter the Writer’s name comes up.
“You’re good friends, I hear.” In fact, I thought they were such bosom buddies that I was mildly surprised we were chatting, assuming Mr Walker Writer would be getting the exclusive in this area. “Erm, no not really. We met him once, somewhere. The XYZ show, I think… He calls and says hi now and again.” I was a little shaken and that big red alarm bell inside my head began ringing. You see, the way that Walter Writer talks, both when we met up by chance one day and even more so online on his blog and via Facebook, he gives the impression that he has motor industry leaders on speed dial and that he’s an iconic guru on his chosen niche subject.
Careful name dropping in a calculated way over subsequent months reveals that everyone that ever served him in a Latte in Starbucks can be put down as Walter Writer’s friends, buddies for life over oceans and across continents. I guess many people put this down as harmless bullshit. Personally, I beg to differ…
Example Number Three. Walter the Broadcast Cameraman
“Yeah, well, when we were filming in the south of Spain, we just jumped into the camera ship and did some superb shots of the race car, skids just a few feet off his roof, me with one foot on the skid, looked awesome.”
“Sounds exciting, what camera setup did you use?”
“Well, we shot it using the Beta 2.0 version of the PanaRedArrilexEOS with a wafflesprocket geared head all in AVID, with a microwave downlink direct to the producer on the ground.” Walter continues, spouting statistics, codecs, output formats and more HMDI’s and Firewires that you can shake a stick at.
“Amazing, you got a showreel? Can I meet up some time?”
“Erm, well the showreel is being re-edited for 2012, new website online soon.”
“Where’s your old site?”
As we talked, I gained the distinct impression that I was being pumped for info. I’ll help the next guy as best I can, but after a while, I shut up… Anyone who claims to be a professional broadcast cameraman but doesn’t have any kind of showreel or web presence sounds a little odd to me.
Fast forward around three months, a chance conversation “What do you know about Walter Mitty Cameraman?” I ask. A sideways glance from by friend, “Why?”
“Just wondered, thought you’d worked with him.”
Snort of derision, “What a wanker.”
Hit a nerve there, then.
He continues, “I always had a feeling about him, sometimes he did some really dumb, elementery things. Jeez, the guy sometimes shot stuff with the bloody horizon on the piss, I’m no expert, camera work isn’t my part of the job, but his camera moves were shit, so I did some digging. Seems he’s not done any of the stuff he says, his previous employer really didn’t want to talk about it until I claimed I was doing ‘due diligence’ checks, then he was more forthcoming. What a dick, I’ve blocked the bastard on Facebook.”
As you’ve probably gathered, my industry friend is always direct and calls a spade a f*cking shovel…
For sure, we all like to talk it up a bit, from the fisherman with the fifty foot shark to the college guys who swear blind they’ve nailed that blonde college icon. But when you write content in such a way that it infers you’re best mates and ‘love to hang out’ with people you’ve only met once, or even only had email exchanges with, or you claim that you’re working for well known brands, when in fact it transpires you’re actually working for free just to live the dream, there’s something going badly wrong in your head.
Names, locations and so forth have been changed, not to protect the three Walters, but for the discretion of my colleagues.
The scary thing about the transient nature of the internet is that if someone claims something is true often enough and loud enough, it can quickly become fact. So the question is, at what point does a bit of harmless bullshit become sinister and ever so slightly creepy? Your comments are welcome…