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 subject...as 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.