Focusing on the fame game.

June 26, 2011

It’s funny how fame can brush up against us ordinary folk, like a butterfly flitting past our faces while we daydream in the hammock on a lazy summer day.

Tina Turner once waved and smiled at me as she bee-lined through the lobby of the theatre I managed, a brief glimmer of appreciation for the fact I’d roped off a row of seats so she and her entourage could sneak in after the lights went down.

As an entertainment reporter, I’ve interviewed the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sean Astin, director Curtis Hanson and author Anne Rice.

And now, it turns out, I also have a connection with Richard Lam.

Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself Richard who? He’s the photographer who, while in the employ of Getty Images, snapped the photo of the couple kissing as chaos swirled them during the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver (see photo with this post).

Richard and I once worked together at the Langley Times. During my 11 years with the newspaper, I saw several weekend-slash-holiday relief photographers come and go and Richard was one of them. I can’t honestly say I knew him well but I did consider us friends and so am going to bask in a bit of his glory, in one of those “Hey, I know that guy” moments.

I have to admit to being dubious when I first saw the photo of Australian Scott Jones lying in the middle of the street with his new Canadian girlfriend, Alex Thomas.

My initial thought was that the shot had been set up. One of those, “Yo, buddy, take our photo while we pretend to make out in the middle of this riot. It will look so cool on my Facebook page.”

It was either that or one of those moments of wild, unleashed, unbridled passion where you just want to holler, “Hey, you two! Get a room! Preferably one without burning cars.”

But, according to quotes from Richard, and amateur video that has since emerged, the photo is genuine, that after being knocked over by the police riot squad, Scott is consoling Alex as madness reigns around them.

Richard admitted he didn’t even know he had taken a shot that would eventually become an Internet sensation and be printed in newspapers all over the world (including both major dailies here in New Zealand) until a fellow photographer saw it on a Getty computer as Richard’s memory card was being downloaded.

It seems Richard was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time with a camera. I know the feeling. Not the international acclaim, mind you, but the thrill of capturing a random, candid moment. I favour photographing people going about their lives, usually at markets or fairs or parades or other public gatherings, and am constantly amazed at what I called “happy accidents.”

That’s where I’ve captured – via a combination of good fortune, good timing and having a good camera pressed to my face at that precise instant – an expression, a gesture that defies that subject at that exact moment in time.

Of course, my minor masterpieces are consigned to my Flickr page and are seldom recognized, never mind lauded and applauded like Richard’s shot.

Meaning that, once again, I shall have to content myself with sidling up to fame and waving madly in the background.

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