Thursday, 17 January 2013

The ‘paparazzi at the frontlines’ are bored to death

Graffiti outside the Al Ahly club on Zamalek 
My phone has been ringing off the hook lately. Not with possible job offers or assignments - if only! - but with friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Everybody is bored out of their mind. See, most people in my social circle practice some form of journalism for a living. They make their money off of news, and Cairo has been lacking that as of late.

There haven’t been any big protests for weeks, nor have there been any other visually interesting events. For most of my contacts, that means they’re out of work and sat at home counting the specks of dust on the floor. In a weak attempt to curtail their boredom, they start calling everybody they can think of to check and see if there is anyone out there that might know of the slightest of events going down somewhere.

And so it happens that I'm stood at some memorial march for a marter that no one except for a dozen of his relatives and no less than fifteen photographers have bothered to turn up for. With so few 'normal people' it is nearly impossible to take a picture without having on average six other photographers in it, so most us leave fairly quickly. I end up at a local teahouse with some friends/colleagues. Our main topic of discussion? The current ‘lack of action’.

Our discussion reminded me of an article I wrote for the Dutch edition of Vice a few months ago. In it I - only partly sarcastically - wrote 'secretly I enjoy the fact that stuff is on fire again, because in order to make a living I have had to resort to writing music reviews and teaching English again, and that's not exactly why I moved here.'

That particular sentence set somebody off in the comment section. 'One man's meat is another man's poison' he exclaimed, I had 'found a mare's nest' and 'I'd sell my own grandmother'. Suddenly I'm a 'paparazzo at the frontline' (and a 'he', apparently). In sum, he thinks it's a 'disgusting thing to say'.

What a load of horse shit. 'Good news is no news', or so the age old adage goes in journalism. 'Zero dead at protest in Cairo', or 'Muslim Brotherhood not offending anybody for third week in a row' - nobody would ever read that. I can go out and take a real nice picture of a SCAF-officer and a street kid having a cup of tea together, but I strongly doubt anyone would fork out any cash for it.

Murder, mayhem and mystery is what people want to see and read about, and where (the biggest part of) my income stems from. I can go and be all faux-ethical and politically correct about that, but that doesn't help my financial situation in the slightest, now does it?

Fortunately better times are likely to come our way very soon. The 25th of January marks the second anniversary of the start of the revolution and the next day, the 26th, a verdict is expected in the court case against the accused in the Port Said stadium disaster.

In the meantime I'm hoping 'Sander' can fill me in on where to make 'tons of money making photos', so I can hang out there until the 25th and rake in some serious cash to tide me over the next gap in protests and general chaos on the streets of Cairo. 

DISCLAIMER: This is a quick translation of a column I wrote for two Dutch websites. The original was written in Dutch, so if some sentences seem a bit off, feel free to blame my eduction.

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