on event photography

In my new life in school people have begun making assumptions about me, assumptions about what I think and what I like, based on their interactions with me in the short time that we have been friends. While these assumptions are generally harmless and even amusing (i.e. KF thinks that I think very lowly of him because he didn’t complete his Maths homework when in reality I can’t be bothered about someone else’s homework and Taliza used to think that I am cold and emotionally distant) I have been thinking about one assumption that isn’t quite as amusing as the others. This assumption most probably stems from seeing me physically with a camera almost all the time in school, and probably also from witnessing my affinity to direct swag shots with ease and enjoyment. This assumption is the assumption that I love photography. It is not as much an assumption as it is a fact; it is true that I like taking pictures. But then you start to assume that I love all forms of photography. You think if something involves a camera, I’d love it. Bug photography, landscape photography, macro photography. I must love them all, right?

I thought so too. You led me to believe that in order to love photography, I must love all forms of photography. You project this image of me upon myself, one in which I am the photographer you have in your mind. I bought it, for a while, until I come to the realization that I absolutely hate event photography.

In the two events that I have been asked to attend in order to become the event photographer I have never felt more miserable in my school life than when I am photographing people I don’t care about doing things I can’t relate to. In the events in which I am supposedly event photographer I feel terribly disconnected. In the middle of the crowd in the middle of all your fun I am like watching a TV series about the quintessential teenagers getting wasted in a party. I am on the outside. It’s like my personality and humanity have been separated and I am only an extension of my camera.

After the first event I went to as event photographer I felt awfully shitty. I was bored being event photographer, having to stay in a room I don’t care to be in until an unknown time, and yet I cannot leave because I accepted this proposition. You allow me in for free, on the condition that I take decent shots. I curse myself as the night drags on and my camera is full of half-assed shots I can’t wait to delete. I’m trapped in this place by my interest in photography.

Then you invite me to the second event. Still convinced that the first event was an exception, I accepted once again, fueled by a sense of honour that you have thought of me for this job. Maybe it will turn out differently this time, and besides, I get in for free, and I am curious about this event. I show up again, and I feel the same misery creeping in with every shot I take. I find myself in the same situation: reduced. It got worse because this time you told me what shots to take. You weren’t even looking at me, you weren’t asking, you were giving instructions. You reduced me to a camera, an object. And then the realization sank in and the assumption was broken and I stopped feeling reduced. I didn’t ask to be photographing for this event, I was only here because the organizer was my friend and she asked, nicely. I could have ditched event photography and brought my camera only to record moments with my friends. I felt annoyed. This is not high school in which you can get in trouble for not listening to instructions, so I decided to wave off your demanding requests. As you were talking at me, I tuned you out, until I couldn’t hear you anymore. You were just a self-absorbed entity wildly waving your hands around as your mouth opened and closed furiously. You looked ridiculous, muted like that. It was a delicious feeling. When I blindly nodded and said I would do it, at an approximate time when your mouth seemed closed and your eyes filled with anticipation for a response, knowing full well I have no intentions of doing so, I felt freed. I felt again in control of my own camera.

If there’s one thing I learned about my short miserable unpaid job as an event photographer it’s that I remember more vividly why I ventured into photography in the first place. I do it not because I enjoy mindlessly releasing the shutter again and again and watching random images pop up in the display screen of my camera. I think that’s what people assume. I do it because of two reasons: 1. it’s my medium of creativity and 2. there are personal moments I need to remember long after they are gone. Both reasons intersect. And the problem with event photography is that they are too impersonal for me to find creativity within them.

And so here it is, my public resignation from being an unpaid event photographer. It’s about time you acknowledge event photography for what it is: a job. You can’t continue assuming that I will do it for free on the assumption (that I have proven wrong) that I like it. My interest is not yours to exploit. I will no longer be your voluntary photographer and I would like to maintain dominance over my own camera and where I aim it, thank you very much.

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