Photo oops

About a month ago, the Dallas Theatre League held a meeting of theater reps from Theatre Three, Dallas Theater Center, Our Endeavors, Echo Theatre, and Lyric Stage, among others, and various media types, including yours truly and Tom Sime from The Dallas Morning News. Several topics were introduced and then lightly danced upon, given the amount of time vs. the number of Very Pressing Issues on the minds of both sides. One subject I'd like to toss out a few more paragraphs about, because I think it is very pressing: the quality of production photos distributed to the Dallas media by area theaters. Rather, the frightening lack of quality in said photos.

Let me field your protests before calls and e-mails start coming in: I am aware that almost no one in this city is making a profit from the theatrical arts. Folks can't afford to pay a budding Leibovitz or Weber to churn out dazzling images that approximate the live experience. I'm not asking for dazzling. Just in focus. And decently composed, so that you can clearly see the actors' faces instead of their entire bodies. And neither garishly lit nor anemically rendered in natural light. A simple rule about pictures: "If it looks like shit, it's going to reproduce like shit."

Why doesn't the Observer take production photos the way the Morning News does? Tragic but true answer: We don't have nearly as much money. Yet, as Tom Sime confirmed at the Theatre League meeting, good, crisp pics taken by the theaters benefit your coverage in the Morning News as well: They encourage preview mentions of the show, and just mentions period.

As far as the Observer goes, let me say this: Lousy photos undercut a rave review. And good photos (much as I hate to admit it) offer a simple but strong counterbalance to bad reviews. Best of all, an eye-catching shot can make someone at least skim an article they'd otherwise ignore. That's why I encourage artists to bend over backward to make press photos a priority. At the very least, make them just professional enough so that they don't draw attention to themselves via their sloppiness.

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To take my part in this emergency, if anyone out there already uses a good photographer (consistently strong examples have been provided by Kitchen Dog, Our Endeavors, and Fort Worth's Stage West), or knows of a talented photography student who might work really cheap or for beer or for a photo credit in a large-circulation weekly, call me ((214) 757-8434) or e-mail me (, and I'll forward the information to Jo Trizila at the Dallas Theatre League. Hell, I'll forward any info I get to companies myself if they call.

That is all. You may go now.

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