As I pack for the next photo journey, I‘ve got just about everything possibly packed. Multiple cameras, lenses, video recorders, audio recorder, multiple batteries and rechargers for each device, laptop, cables, connectors, locks, keys, memory cards for each camera, multiple external hard drives, power converters, power adapters for multiple countries, essential clothing, rain gear (mostly for the equipment), and a pair of sandals for when I get back to the hotel after long grueling hours when my feet are most tired.
Everything. Except. Credentials.
How does this happen? After all, without the credentials from the sponsoring organization, I have absolutely no reason to pack all this gear and book a flight. Ridiculous as it sounds, that is my situation, and it‘s not the first time. But I‘m a trusting guy and always hope for the very best. But why does it have to work this way? Gaining credentials is a must to gain access for quality shots. I‘m protected from the process when I shoot for established media entities, but when I come in as f/go, an independent photojournalist working to “build community around the spirit of sport,“ I get to experience it in “interesting“ ways.
For years, I spent considerable effort in having discussions with a state high school league about my interest in covering teams I had covered year-long. They denied me access because they had an exclusive agreement with a photo company. That would have been reasonable if said photo company was at the games I was locked out and denied access. In their world, it was apparently more important to maintain an exclusive relationship with a vendor than it was to have the kids be able to see themselves in their shinning moment.
Over many years, reason did prevail and f/go was granted access, but again with the understanding that the kids nor family could purchase images. The images were published online, and still no coverage of early championship rounds by the exclusive vendor. Being a non-rule breaker (work to change rules if they don‘t make sense and following when they do), I informed the high school league when it came too my attention this past season that a photographer was selling images taken at the championship games. The Media Director referred me to their most recent Media Guide that now stated photographs could be sold.
A year ago, I traveled internationally (okay, it was just neighboring Canada, hardly international) to cover a sporting event that I had covered for the same organization a year before in Ireland. I enjoyed spectacular volumes of traffic on f/go, a primary objective of building community. And some minimal volume of photo sales followed. Enough to the extent that those who wanted to purchase images had the ability to do so.
But this past year, the organization explained that I would not be allowed to sell images unless I paid a $500 vendor fee. Laughable, this suggested that sales of photos approached anything that would justify this additional expense on top of my flight, hotel, rental car and meals. The onsite media coordinator asked me, “Why don‘t you just give your photos away?“ Sure, I thought. As long as Canon, Delta, Apple, Adobe, Budget Car Rental, Holiday Inn, and all the other expenses I paid out agreed that they would just give the resources I required. Why should everyone except the person who actually makes the photo get paid?
So, coming to back today‘s packing, I‘m pretty sure I‘ve got everything I need. Everything except credentials. You see, the sponsoring organization has a deadline for applications still a few more days away. And I leave for the first leg off my trip, to Kenya, for a photo project I coordinated with this coming sporting event. But, based on conversations with the executive director, I trust I am good. But why does it have to be like this?
Why do organizations leave the media credentialing to such a late date? Why do they place such restrictions, especially for an emerging sport that benefits from any coverage? (I looked. Not a single newspaper article was found in either of the past two international events for this organization appeared in days surrounding the events). And I needed to book my hotel and flights weeks ands weeks ago. Complicated travel schedule dictated, but so did the need to secure reasonable rates and decent accommodations. I was actually locked out of my first choice hotel four weeks ago, and got the last room on my second choice a day later. I‘m a trusting soul. And being desperate is one of the worst feelings I always try to avoid.
But hey, how about some cred over here?