Kids Watching TV, Past and Present

Photo by Robbie Cooper for New York Times Magazine

Photo by Robbie Cooper for New York Times Magazine

Photo District News, Robert Benson, and Vincent Laforet are all lauding the latest work of Robbie Cooper in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.  The whole thing was shot with the RED video camera, with the video published online and the stills going into print.

The buzz about this piece is the innovative use of multimedia.  With more and more video cameras being able to produce quality stills, and professional SLRs adopting video, I’ve found myself counting the days (months really) until I own a Canon 5d MkII.  My friend Dan, a TV producer, has tried to keep me grounded by pointing out that the equipment is ultimately just a tool and that a person’s ability to tell a good story visually will always be more important to the end result.  I must agree that innovation comes from the photographer’s eye, not the camera’s.

Benson points out a series of photographs very similar to Cooper’s, of adults playing video games, made by Philip Toledano.  And I notice an even closer resemblance between Cooper’s work and Wolfram Hahn’s 2006 photo essay called A disenchanted Playroom, in which he photographed children watching television.

Photo by Wolfram Hahn, 2006

Photo by Wolfram Hahn, 2006

It’s interesting to me the similarity of expressions on Cooper’s and Hahn’s subjects, since one might consider television a passive pursuit and video games a very interactive one.  I guess in both cases what these kids are experiencing is a strong detachment from reality, replacing it with the world inside the screen.

Hahn didn’t use a fancy new video camera, and just put the camera on top of the TV, not behind a transparent screen, but I think I like his eye better.

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