Sunday, 16 November 2014

POV: The Task I Like Best (Well, Almost)

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Collecting information, and then scouting, for a future photo expedition-workshop, is a challenging task that is time-consuming, and requires reliable contacts...and one that takes patience, cerebral stamina and luck.

During the past 2 to 3 weeks, I've been researching and gathering information for a particular self-assignment project in Viet Nam; one that seems to be quite tough to nail down from New York, but would have been reasonably easy if I were in Ha Noi instead.

This particular project is like unraveling seemingly endless rubber bands of a golf ball, one strand by one strand, with the added frustration of sometimes coming to a dead end, or unearthing a promising lead but receiving no response to emails and/or Facebook messages. Sure, there's a sense of accomplishment when I get a lead; especially one that leads to another lead,...but there's a lot of disappointment when it turns all to nothing, or even worse, when there's no response.

I often wonder what did we do before the advent of the internet, email, and the various social media? Photographers and photojournalists had to rely on local information supplied by friends, fixers, and various other contacts and sources...and that took time to arrive and be verified. We now have it much easier...but it's still an uphill struggle to get what we need. I enjoy the challenge, there's no question about that. It's a sort of information sleuthing; one that needs to be checked and double checked.

For this current research, I trawl Vietnamese websites and, while I appreciate Google Translate and/or the browser's translate option, the results are often hilarious and unreliable. Trying to accurately pin down festival dates based on the Lunar calendar is tantamount to nailing Jell-O to the wall. I'm already imposing on Vietnamese friends and contacts for translation and advice, but there's a limit on how many times I can ask for help.

Probably the most disappointing so far is the no-reply to my emailed request for assistance (contact sharing) from a USC professor who specializes in the type of religious festivals I'm seeking. One would think professors would gladly share information on subject matters that are important to them. Not that one.

Aside from the Vietnamese websites, I check every promising location on Google Maps, calculating the distances and directions from Ha Noi, or wherever my hub will be at that time.

I'd compare this research to erecting a spider's web. All strands will eventually (hopefully?) lead to the center. Writing the results in long hand in a Moleskin notebook seems to help me focus much more than using a computer or an iPad.

Once the information is sifted and verified, the actual physical scouting will occur along with making travel plans, setting up a budget, etc.

I really can't wait for that phase.

Ah, well...enough of this. I must go back to the hunt.