Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Freelancers are from Hell

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I went for my first shoot today; as a fully employed individual. Not as a freelancer, or a student. In my capacity as a commissioning photo-editor, this was my very first. Most of my friends did this right after their Masters degree. However, it took me an additional research degree, two very short stints at startups, a bout of chickenpox and a year of depression to get to this. Honestly, it was no different than anything I'd ever done. Which is to say, if you've been at a film school in India and played by the ear, this is as good as it gets. Newsflash alert: I didn't have fun.

That's right. Everything was had, except for lunch and fun. Also, a good picture story.

When you're employed in a professional set-up, you learn a lot about yourself. Beginning from how to keep a straight face when the person you're suppose to pick-up after taking that detour doesn't answer your call, to holding the fucking reflector when you've gone to do something else at the shoot, namely interviewing and taking pictures yourself. It's all about keeping a calm head and managing to ace two things, namely-

a) dealing with the subject,
b) dealing with the photographer.

The film school I attended put us in these unfavourable conditions often. I would Hate with an uppercase h, the situations under which we were put, as if someone was cherrypicking my nightmares and adding me to that. My team-members, often, were egotistical assholes, some of whom in the past have had problems taking orders from women (self-confessed by a man who I had the pleasure to work with all of one semester). If not egotistical assholes, my team-members included other alpha characters, all of whom had very strong opinions on what should go on screen, what shouldn't and who would do that.

"Can you keep your passive aggressiveness at bay? I'm trying to work."

"Can you cut down on sarcasm or will it affect the digestion of your food?"


"No. I'm not going to listen to you. Keep talking."

"Keep that camera down."


"Return my camera."

"*insert name* give me your camera. I'll do the rest of the shoot from that."

"*insert the same name* do not give the camera. He's not listening."

"I cannot work with you around."

"I can no longer be your friend."

"I can no longer do this."

You get the drift? Peak breakdowns, traumatic situations and melodramatic reactions to belittle one another. This was my take away from the uncontrolled shoot situations. In a way, I swore off this, when I exited the film school. For starters I didn't think I was good enough to cut it. For the other, I used to wonder if it's really these people who are peculiar cunts or will it be everyone. Coming down to Grad School to do the research, I unlearnt everything about people that I did know up until my film school point- never trust anyone with a camera in their hand.

At the shoot today, I felt a lot like I'd never exited Jamia. It was as if the time had frozen and I was in 2012. Wearing the same leather jacket and being overloaded with material and peaking excitement, waiting for the subjects to arrive.

The freelancer, much like my work nemesis, threw her weight around. Despite me barking instructions prior to the shoot on the mail and during the commute to the shoot, the freelancer ignored me as she established that she will be her the boss of me and this shoot and will be calling the shoots. At the shoot, while we were waiting for the subjects, the freelancer breaks it down to me that she has another place to be and we have got to wrap up. This, for a celebrity subject, whose existence, pretty much solidifies the whole fucking book I'm working on. All these facts were known to the freelancer. This reminded me of the nemesis announcing an early exit from all possible meetings, shoots and everything ever, to be back to his then new girlfriend, who he wanted to spend every living moment with. He would make it sound like he's done a favour to mankind by showing up on time for work, every once in a while. Your base/homework would be ignored, since he would land up on that pedestal and dictate his orders. It was all too familiar as I saw the rest of the afternoon unfold.

The weight was shoved around, instructions disobeyed (can you take their video? I don't have the time. Do it on your phone.) and after clicking three sorts of images, for a three page long collage spread, the freelancer tells me the time with them is over.

Well, yeah, time will be over if you decide to leave the shoot in under an hour of it's initiation. The shoot will also be over when you yell out loud after three types of shots, "SHOOT OVER!".

As a photographer, if you're not on top of your game to get the desired result that your client wants, then as I have repeatedly been saying, you being a freelancer is a waste of your time and my money. If you do not have the time to finish a shoot, then say no. If you have prior meetings on the same day, then say no. If you are uninterested in doing a project in a way the client asks you to, then say no. For the love of the fucking lord, do not make hackneyed stories after each shoot, about why it's been a dud. Do not rush your subject or yourself, especially if your job is to make them comfortable and get the fucking portraits. There are people who need the time to look like themselves infront of the camera and there are people who have a ready camera façade to face it as soon as it's right infront of them. My subjects were former, they would smile but you could see they're uncomfortable and as was I. The shots I had in mind were not taken/initiated. Each time I spoke, I was ignored or chided by the photographer.

I understand, I'm at the bottom of the food chain. However, what I don't get is this entitled attitude, this sense of superiority especially amongst photographers, when you're not the boss of everything. Manipulation can only get you as far as being at the shoot. However, to get the shoot, you need to traverse through the harmless, innocent looking individual who allots. And there's only so much you can allow the other person to take advantage of.

I may have gone gentle on my friend/colleague after all, because at the end of the day he's been my friend and I know our association wrt work. Despite our frictions, he delivered all that was required and however unfair it may be, he ensured he got me the content I needed. The freelancer is replaceable. I hope one day the world remembers that before being patronizing to the new commissioning editor on the job.

Also, jaysus, please don't be fucking late when you ask someone to pick you up. I am talking to you, who makes an Uber driver wait and guide them to an incorrect address to buy time so you can brush your teeth one hour before a fucking photo-shoot. 

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