Industry junkets can be a challenge for freelancers. Outside of the ethical issues associated with accepting what amounts to a gift from a vendor and having to weigh that against any genuine benefit that comes from participation, there is the question of how you value your time. I would assert that you can’t always count the value of participation in simple financial terms.
Sure, your time is worth money, but being a journalist, freelance or otherwise, is as much about participating in life as it is about making money and meeting deadlines. A case in point.
Coupla years back, Canon ran one of their famous “event” shindigs that took the assembled junketeers to the Hunter Valley [Editor's note - in New South Wales, Australia].
Part of the itinerary involved spending some hours at a greyhound racing track, where the privilege of access with a license to shoot and the use of any of Canon’s L series lenses meant a bucketload of pics were taken. Three of those pics are still part of my folio.
Anyway, turns out that among the crowd was a bloke in a wheelchair. Crusty face, coke bottle glasses, form guide in one hand and a fag permanently hanging out his mouth. (Reality check: fag = ciggie, OK?)
He was the quintessential trackside character, and every tog on the course knew it. He got lots of pics taken.
Coupla days later, I get a call from a dog trainer. Ever the enterprising type, I’d managed a sale while I was there. Took some pics of his dogs. Anyway, the guy asks me if I got pics of Charlie.
“Yeah, you know, the guy in the wheelchair. His funeral is on Friday.”
“Yeah, the day you mob came down to the track was almost his last day on earth. You saw his mate there, right? Well, his mate asked him what he’d like to do most before kicking the bucket and Charlie said he’d like a day at the track. He was a fixture around here for years. So his mate nicked a hospital wheelchair, put ‘im on a bus… his mate had been done for drink driving … and brung him down to the track. At the end of the day, offers were coming from all corners to get Charlie back to the hospital, but his mate refused, saying ‘I got ‘im here. I’ll get ‘im home.’”
So I contacted Canon, told them what happened, and because they had all the photographers’ CF cards, they collected all the pics of Charlie they could find, put them on a disk and couriered them to the trainer the next day.
On the following day, the day of the funeral, the trainer gives me a call.
“Mate, I can’t thank you enough for organising that. The pictures were amazing. They were exactly how we all remembered Charlie. Try to imagine a room full of trackies and trainers huddled around a laptop watching the slideshow, mate. It was great. Couldn’t have done a better send-off.”
The moral of the story? Sometimes really good things happen when you throw your bean-counting to the wind and trust in the possibilities of serendipitous adventure.
Chris Oaten is a freelance photographer and writer with more than a decade of experience covering consumer technology. His web site is www.insightvisuals.com.au