Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sunday Rant: The Selfish Photographer

I haven't really ranted for a while now...but yesterday's post about Katie Orlinky's work amongst the Muxes of Juchitan reminded me of an itch that needs to be scratched.

Before going for a week's vacation in Oaxaca late February, I posted on the Lightstalkers photo forum asking for advice as to what and where to photograph. The suggestions I received from many working photographers (both travel and photojournalists) were generous and useful... and I dutifully wrote everything down so I could follow these through while in Oaxaca. One of most intriguing suggestions was to photograph the Muxes in the city of Juchitan, roughly a hundred miles south of Oaxaca city. I was given the email of photographer who had already published a number of photo essays on the Muxes culture, and encouraged to solicit that photographer's help.

I did exactly that, asking for advice as to how to get to Juchitan, and whether there were any names I could contact. I received nothing in response except for a curt brush-off. Thinking the photographer had misunderstood my questions, I clarified what I needed, but never got a reply.

Now, here's a photographer who already published all there was to publish on the far as that photographer was concerned, the subject was done...was in the can...and was published (and presumably paid for) a few times already. No danger of meaningful competition here, and yet, the reaction was to brush-off an inquiry from a fellow photographer.

Do I expect too much from people? I don't think so. There will always be some photographers who selfishly (and in my view, sometimes illogically) guard their perceived "fiefdoms"...but, from experience, they are a minority in an industry that frequently relies on mutual assistance. I have no difficulty whatsoever in sharing whatever knowledge I have...whether this is done during my photo-expeditions, photo critiques or by answering frequent questions about my photo destinations, techniques and photographs.

So what I have to tell this selfish photographer is this: what goes around comes around. As for the Muxes, I did not have the time to travel to Juchitan, but I now know people who will take me there when I return to Oaxaca. And when I do, I'll send some of the resulting photographs to the selfish photographer.