After The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a shock statement last night, announcing their step-back from senior royal roles, a small section in their heavily detailed new website jumped out to me – the royal couple would begin to involve grassroots news organisations and young journalists more often as they revise their media approach through Spring 2020.
They write: In the spring of 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be adopting a revised media approach to ensure diverse and open access to their work. This adjustment will be a phased approach as they settle into the new normality of their updated roles. This updated approach aims to:
- Engage with grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists […]”
As a student photographer and journalist myself the past two years have taught me just how difficult the royal scene is for us starting out in the field from the bottom unaided. Competition is fierce among photographers, royal reporters and correspondents are growing in the dozens – especially since the royal wedding – and our voice is drowned out and dismissed as being ‘too young, too inexperienced’.
I’ve prided my royal photography on it’s positivity – highlighting the wonderful charitable endeavours of the royals during royal engagements, remaining impartial in times of perceived crisis, and always trying my best to promote the very best in everyone.
I’ve spent countless nights awake at 3am deleting horrific, vitriolic, racist, sexist and all-round disgusting comments from my Instagram pages, I’ve blocked and reported an endless stream of Twitter trolls, and I always find time to correct misconceptions or ‘fake news’ when it comes my way.
It’s extremely expensive starting out from the bottom unaided as well. Every time I’ve received a student loan to help my university studies (I’m a full time BA(Hons) Journalism student at Staffordshire University) I’ve poured the money straight into my photography. Buying new lenses, buying a new camera, buying storage for my photos, spending on travel to London, Windsor, Bristol, Birkenhead and other corners of the country, and so much more. I could have spent that on holidays, on better clothes (I’m a plain black outfit kinda guy!) or on nights out – the typical student thing – but I haven’t, and I’ve never thought twice about it.
Using social media I’ve at times had to turn to crowdfunding and the generous donations of supporters across the world to get me to places I need to be, to have enough to buy that next lens, or to put towards a website. And throughout, I’ve tried to find ways to give back – be that permanently donating profits to charity, offering exclusive photographs to those kind enough to donate, or offering tips and advice wherever I can. Without any of that help, on my own this would have been impossible as a kid from a rough council estate.
And I could so easily avoid that effort, again, what does a ‘too young, too inexperienced’ photographer like me know about the royal bubble?
I know one thing incredibly well: the core purpose of the royals, from The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, is to support the country and the Commonwealth, and through that, highlight and support the invaluable work of countless charities, organisations and individuals. All of whom deliver a world of good to this cloudy time we live in. And that should be my focus.
I don’t care about the gossip, the rumours, the unknown and the whispers, I certainly don’t care for personal information like private family letters being leaked, or headlines that seek negativity to sell. I care about the good in the world – how a simple, small message on a banana could help a sex worker in crisis, how education for girls in Africa could lead to the next world leader or Cancer-curing scientist, how animal shelters work through busy periods like Christmas to give four-legged friends a friend for life.
And this is what I try to focus my photography on – when it comes to the royals, there’s nothing better that I love capturing that a happy walkabout, meeting the real people on the ground, capturing real, raw, excitable meetings with peoples icons, and meeting those people myself. I’ll always remember making friends with wacky American tourists while waiting to photograph the Royal Wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Windsor, or the funniest and best people up in a rainy Blackpool ahead of photographing The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Those connections stick with me for a lifetime, along with the photos I capture, and every event I document leaves a real, deep mark on me. Because despite being a ‘too young, too inexperienced’ photographer, the passion, love and warmth I have for what I do is beyond words I could write here.
This next move by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, to us young photographers, journalists, and grassroots organisations, is the lifeline we’ve longed for for so, so long. It’s the recognition we’ve been desperate for, and the hope we’ve held onto every time we’re told we’re ‘too young’, every time we’re dismissed as ‘too inexperienced’, and every time we’ve been mocked throughout.
And we have a hell of a lot to bring to the table. Personally speaking, the passion, enthusiasm and excitement I have for my photography is inextinguishable, a fire raging in my mind every second of the day. Whether that means waking up at 3am to travel 300 miles across the country or missing out on university parties and holidays with my friends, that fire burns on. I love learning about the new places I visit when photographing royal engagements (it’s because of documenting The Duke and Duchess of Sussex that I managed to visit Bristol for the first time in my life last year), and learning about wonderful charities I’d never heard of, the people behind them, and how the attention brought to them by the royals will profoundly benefit them as they carry out their work.
Us young up-and-comers don’t care for the gossip, the invasions of privacy, the negative pointless stories made from thin air – we just love taking photographs that document history, we love the smiles on peoples faces as they meet the royals they’ve followed for years, we love visiting new places and making great connections along the way. We love feeling like we’re part of something bigger, and for me, I love creating photographs that bring smiles on other peoples faces.
Stepping back doesn’t mean stepping down, and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be shining brighter than ever before. The idea that not being ‘senior royals’ will reduce their limelight is laughable, as is the idea that it’s a snub to the entire royal family.
It’s a different approach, a different way of doing things, fit for the different times we live in today.
Different doesn’t mean bad.
To young photographers and journalists like myself, this next step by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex is a golden pathway to truly exciting, wonderful and life-changing experiences.
For more information about me and the work I do, visit @BenjaminWareing on Twitter, or head to: www.benjaminwareing.com