4 years ago10,000+ Views
I've been very fortunate that my career has taken me to some truly beautiful and interesting places. I've met many amazing people along the way and I've seen many unforgettable events; some so beautiful as to take your breath away - others so tragic as to break your heart. In March of 2011 I was visiting the island of Nassau in the Bahamas. While I was there I did my best to alienate and thoroughly piss off a tourism official and representative working for the government. Her job was to show us visiting journalists and professional photographers/cinematographers why her island was an ideal place to come and do photo/video/film shoots. I'm a photojournalist at heart and I want my photos to tell the story of what I've seen. A friend of mine saw a portrait of me - shot by another journalist there and he said that I looked like a "war correspondent" and really; I felt like one. What's interesting is that as beautiful as any of the topical islands are the amount of poverty present is staggering. A few of the "shortcuts" our guide took us on through back streets and neighborhoods off the beaten path looked war-torn. Several times our guide got angry with me for stopping to shoot photos of the economic carnage. "NO! NOT HERE! Don't take these photos!!!!" When I asked why she said, "Because I don't want my home being represented this way! You need to show why people want to come here!" My response was, "But these photos tell the story of what is happening behind the scenes on your island. And yes there may be people who see them and think they won't like to visit. But for every one of them, a dozen more will see the unfair way your people are being treated and want to help." I told her that I want to tell the true story of how small controlling groups of foreign investors have profited from the resorts and tourism and most of the rest of the people on the island are still living in abject poverty. She looked into my eyes and then gave me a nod and a smile. It was totally unexpected. "Take whatever photos you want. But you tell people that we are kind and good people here!" And they are. I never felt threatened or in danger. And I walked through some pretty scary places that day. Outside of the resorts I was just a guy with a camera. Inside the resorts I was one of "them". The elitist tourists who come and act entitled and litter their beaches talking down to them as if they are children. If I ever go back, and I want to, I'll not stay in one of the resorts. The real treasure of this island is it's people. Warm-hearted and earnest; I saw several of the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen while I was there - from children playing barefoot in streets littered with broken glass and rubble.
@JonPatrickHyde what the heck, could you get anymore awesome? This really hits home for me. This happens in so many places. In Guatemala, the locals and indigenous people are being exploited while beautiful cities like Antigua, Tikal, Atitlán are being used for tourism. Many locals depend on tourists to survive, so I understand her reasoning. It's so easy to get distracted by the wonderful landmarks. In Mexico City, for example, there are areas where it is very wealthy. If tourists were to only visit those areas, they would be missing out on the beauty of the history of the Mexican people. It is wonderful to enjoy the beauty of Cancun, Acapulco, etc...but we must remember the forgotten places. What about the farmworkers from Chiapas, the lost children in the trash dumps, the oppressed, weak, and hungry? There is beauty in these places as well...which I feel you captured so beautifully in these photos.
No one ever thinks of the grimy subway floors, the broken windows in the Bronx, or the homeless man and his dog sleeping in the bus terminal when they think of New York City. What worries me most is not that tourists don't see them, but that the people who can really make a difference (city officials, local businesses, etc) stop seeing them as well. There is so much focus on creating a beautiful image for NYC that the attention is centered on pushing the uglier things under the rug rather than helping these people and places improve. Thanks for these pictures and this reminder that not all that glitters is gold.
@JonPatrickHyde This is exactly the ugly side of tourism that upsets me the most. I feel that with technology and transportation nowadays the world should be smaller and more accessible, but even as we can visit more places around the world, we aren't expanding what we see there. I understand that vacations are supposed to be relaxing times when you don't have to think too hard about anything, but to completely ignore or even complain about the less desirable places you're traveling through is disgusting.
@jonpatrickhyde first of all, thx for such an incredible explanation! I didnt kno that stars actually direct wat angles they want to be shot from. thats insane. so even those "candid" shots at performances or events are still not real. DIdnt kno it was THAT controlled. To be honest, Ive got little interest in celebrities but just amazed by the concept of candid being controlled. What I loved about this post was just how real it was. The pics look incredible, almost like pieces of art, but the storys just incredible. I used to live in Providence and ive met so many people who said they luv Providence bc its so clean and beautiful. But theyve never seen half of the city! they just saw the rich school areas but wat about where we live? the pics of providence on google show beautiful RISD or Brown, etc but no one (NOT even Google!!) knows bout south side! Its sad that this happens in our country. Wish there were more photographers like you, and more of this real info. Thanks a lot for doing this!
@lackies2000 - Excellent question!!!! There's two very different worlds I work in. The world that pays my bills is commercial - paid design/photography/videography designed for the express purpose of promotion (a company, a place, an individual, a product, etc...). In this instance it absolutely behooves you to deliver what the client asked for. You will usually be working with a creative director or an art director and you'll be given detailed parameters for what they want shot. When I work as a cinematographer (Director of Photography) - there is this concept of "protecting the talent" - meaning you always work to show the actors - especially actresses - in their best light - unless the script and director specifically state otherwise. When shooting live events I've had it range from very little direction (concerts and large live events usually have stage managers who direct you - where to stand - etc...) to being told that " ----- rock star - likes to only be shot from these angles..." I look at these situations as collaborative art - I'm bringing equipment, my education, my experience, and my own aesthetic and skill (where to frame - what exposure - what lens to use - when to press the shutter) - they are supplying me the amazing venue and event and models - or musicians - or whatever - for me to have inspiration and be moved to shoot great photos. The flip side to all of this is photojournalism - capturing a real moment - unrehearsed, not staged, not altered or doctored. Real news. Real history. Not glossed over or made pretty. You see the shot you take it and other than exposure, focus, and framing - you let the cards fall where they may. To alter any photo that is to be presented as newsworthy or journalistic in nature goes against the concept of "journalistic integrity". I was in the Bahamas shooting video for a large private corporate event. These photos and this trip was done on my day off. One of the tourism officials attended one of the many, many events I filmed - I was there for 6 days - and they offered to host several of us on a tour of the island. The purpose was they wanted to sell us on their island as a potential future location for videos, movies, corporate events, fashion photo shoots... anything that would bring revenue in the way of film permits, etc... I was under no obligation to take any photos. Everyone brought cameras for the purpose of shooting photos of these locations - to give to their locatio...
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