Tuesday, 18 January 2011

WTF?! The Entitlement (or The Me Me) Syndrome

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Perhaps fearing I had mellowed, I was prompted by a number of readers to write an acerbic rant, a pontificating diatribe, a raging soliloquy about something and/or stuff that irritated me. I really had an embarrassment of choices...I could've ranted about the tourists who abruptly stop and just gawk on the narrow sidewalks of the West Village...I could've raged about the mindless people who walk while texting on their Blackberries and bump into me...or I could've complained about the combative mothers/nannies who propel their prams/strollers into my shins because I hadn't promptly jumped out of the way when we meet on the same sidewalks....or of course, about the dog owners who encourage their best friends to take gargantuan dumps near my building but don't clean after them; perhaps hoping that the unobservant step on it.

But these are small annoyances that are part and parcel with living in New York city, and are undeserving of a monumental rant...and also have nothing to do with photography.

No, my plump and juicy rant is on a misplaced sense of entitlement that some established photographers seem to have.

Let me begin with this preamble....I've started The Travel Photographer's blog four years ago, and since then, it attracted a healthy number of readers and visitors. It established itself as a blog to read amongst a certain segment of the photography industry, and earned me the attention of many photographers (pros, semi-pros and non pros),  photo retailers and industry experts.

It's no secret that I use this blog to publicize my photography and my photo~expeditions, however I mainly use it to give exposure to emerging photographers. Like me when I started some 10-12 years ago, these emerging photographers, especially if they're not Westerners, have a difficult time getting recognition for their work, especially in the environment we find ourselves in.

I knew no one in the photo industry when I started my photography...I knew very few photographers when I started The Travel Photographer's blog...and I started The Travel Photographer's Photo~Expeditions on a whim, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. To this day, I never asked a photographer or photojournalist for help in promoting my business....I never asked any of the hundreds of the participants who joined my photo~expeditions to refer my trips to their friends, family members, etc. I never uttered/wrote the words "if you know a friend or two who's interested in my trips or my photos, pass my name/website along". All I've done is slowly build the brand brick by brick.

I have no sense of entitlement...I am not entitled to anything...I do my own thing without burdening people with requests for introductions, for referrals, for links to my website/blog on others', for freebies, etc. With the exception of being part of the terrific Foundry Photojournalism Workshop "family", I haven't joined collectives...I haven't joined pseudo-clubs. I could have...but didn't. I am perfectly content with what I am doing and achieved so far.

It's perhaps because of this that I find the attitude of a few photojournalists-photographers to be really puzzling. They ask me to feature their work on The Travel Photographer blog...which I gladly do. Then they ask again...and again. And I do and do again. But then it hit me...why do they think it's okay to ask me to feature their work, to spread the word about their photo workshops and their inflated resumes...but have no intention of ever reciprocating that courtesy in any fashion? Is it because they have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, a narcissistic personality disorder? Is it because they think they're doing me a favor? Is that what they think 'networking' is? I just don't get it.

Let me be very clear...the likes of John Stanmeyer, Gary Knight, Ron Haviv, Phil Borges, Maggie Steber, etc are the most gracious photographers I've come across (and none of them asked me for anything)....and I've had immense pleasure to showcase their incredible work whenever I come across it, and to learn from it....and I'm happy to continue doing so.  Many photographers (Chico Sanchez is one of those) are equally generous with links and coverage of my work on their own websites and blogs, and many others are appreciative of being featured on my blog. No, this is about a few others...some I met personally and others I didn't...who seem to think that I am somehow obliged to show their work, expected to praise it, and publicize their workshops/activities. This sense of obtuse entitlement drives me bonkers.

I repeat: I Am Not Obliged To Feature Your Work And Your Photo Workshops Because You Think I Ought To.

What I mostly do on this blog is publicize and give exposure to the work of emerging photographers...some of whom are in Bangladesh, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestine, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, etc....it's the work of those photographers that I care about, and what my readers appear to be interested in. And if I do feature the work of established and renowned photographers and/or photojournalists, once, twice or a million times, it's because I'm impressed by it.

Capice? Good...now let's move on.

End of rant.