We small town photographers (those not living in Cape Town or Johannesburg/Pretoria) have it harder than our counterparts in the big city and it has started to irritate me greatly!
My photographic year generally starts slowly and then creaks on painfully but I had a “new” series of shoots for a book that I was looking forward to. It is a nice arty book with a nice arty writer who lives in my nice arty small town and we had started photographing the nice small town art a few weeks ago. Small town art is good enough to be published in big city books but are small town photographers good enough for big city books?
Sort of turns out no. I get to do the stuff that cannot wait until a certain date when the ‘BIG CITY PHOTOGRAPHER’ gets flown out to the small town to do the bulk of the work! No I do understand the big city photographers have working relations with big city publishers and there are those big city expense accounts that have to be flattened by the end of the financial year. I suppose the excuse is that the editor has a working relationship with the photographer and that they generally don’t want to kill each other after a shoot (which is generally how I feel after a shoot with an editor hovering over my shoulder).
Small towns also have heavy industries and factories that make big money from the inhabitants of all small dorps and big cities. All us South Africans (and others) eat, drink, wear, drive or use their many products every day. These heavy industries and factories organise sport events and functions that showcase their products and sometimes these events are in the small town where the things are made. Do you know how they get pictures of these events? You guessed it; they fly down ‘BIG CITY PHOTOGRAPHERS!’ Sometimes they even fly them down in pairs because the small town photographers cannot (or are to small town stupid?) to photograph what they manufacture.
It gets even worse! I heard of a luxury game lodge that needed pictures of the game on their lands. They of course do not use small town photographers (maybe are not game enough?) but the real exciting news is that they do not use the ‘BIG CITY PHOTOGRAPHER!’ No, in this case they were not good enough and they flew in a ‘BIG CITY INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER!’ from a country which, as far as I know, has no game left. Anyway I hope this example will irritate the BIG CITY PHOTOGRAPHER too.
I have not forgotten about accommodation and food – these big town and international photographers have to eat and sleep and do so in small town luxury accommodation. I hope they don’t suffer too much when they have to come out to the platteland and that they do charge the full big city fees which we struggle to get in our small towns. Oh yes, don’t forget to add the costs of getting the big city photographer to the small town. Aeroplanes are the chosen form and transport and they probably justify this by getting free air miles (whatever they are).
So if you run a large firm or business or publish books or whatever and you sometimes need a photographer away from the big city perhaps you should try someone who works away from the big city. Our fees are competitive and you might get away by hiring us per hour or just for the morning.We have the ability and knowledge (including local knowledge which you cannot fly over) and you could save a fortune in fees, flights, accommodation and expenses.
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