How far will you go for a client?
The last three weeks have been quite eventful. While in Bangkok I had been missing Norwegian nature. I was therefore very happy to go on a trip into the mountains with my girlfriend, my sister and her family. A the same time my new client confirmed the FW2018 campaign shoot in Norway, and I was about to assemble a local crew and move forward on this as well. Normally this would go smooth, but the photoshoot almost fell to pieces on account of my trip into the mountains.
We planned to spend a night at a place called Kvitlen, which is a cabin in the beautiful Kvitladalen (valley) about 2 hours drive from my familys home. After arriving at the parking lot, its a 5,5 kilometers hike to Kvitlen, and for my part, with 15 kilos on my back, carrying some stuff for my sister. That day I wanted to make a phone call to my new client, and tell him I might be hard to get on the phone the next 2 days. After all, he was about to fly in from Dehli, India, with the collection, and with the responsibility of returning with some amazing images taken by a photographer he had never worked with before. Needless to say, his job can be stressful, and it is important to help reduce stress when you can, when you get entrusted shooting someones campaign for the first time. That means rapid response, lot’s of assurances and plenty of information when asked for.
Another thing I have noticed while working with international clients in Thailand and the region, is that business is more cut throat, and people are more willing to screw each other over, lie, and take peoples money. There is often far less trust in any business transaction than what is normal in my home country, Norway, I guess because people are usually a lot more like each other, and its a nice and wealthy country. Norwegians are nice, and sometimes even naive. It has taken some time for me to adjust to being treated with a general suspicion from new clients at times, as I have felt it as a bit insulting and frustrating. But I have later realized, that this is just due diligence I big parts of the world.
Problem was, when arriving at the parking lot, I did not have any reception on my cellphone, and so I was not able to call or send a message to the new client to tell him I was going into the mountains. In stead of driving to a signal, I made a mistake and was counting on that I would get reception on our way to the cabin at some point, as we would get higher and higher. When we reached the cabin, after 5 hours of hiking, I still had not been able to get a message out. Everybody was pretty tired, but I was looking at the surrounding peaks, to see where I would most likely get a signal. I took a chance at one of the peaks that seemed not to hard, and started on my second part of the trip, while my girlfriend, sister and her family made dinner. As I got higher up, the peak was actually four higher peaks hidden behind each other. I kept going higher, with a bottle of water in one hand, and my cellphone in another, exhausted. It took me over an hour of steep climbing, but to no avail. At the top I saw nothing but mountains, and no signal. I sat down, looked at these beautiful surroundings, thinking that I was letting my client down, and probably would loose the assignment. How stupid was that. And I was getting very hungry, and had run out of water as well.
I managed to put it aside in my mind and enjoy the rest of the trip. But the next day we went down again pretty early, so that I would be able to contact my client in the afternoon. This would still be in the evening, India local time, so I was hoping for the best. When we got in the car, it took 10 minutes of driving before I got a signal, and messages started pouring in. I was right to worry, because he had already started to contact other fashion photographers, afraid I was not committed. He was accountable to the owner of the company, and time was running out. I explained the situation and put him at ease. I even sent him some photos of the trip. A lesson I had already learned, was that you should not assume that people are used to people being honest. A new lesson for me was to not venture into nature before making sure that everyone who might want to reach you, has been informed. I risked loosing what later turned out to be a great client, and meeting a very nice person I am in the process of considering as a new friend. Working as a professional photographer can be exciting and unpredictable at times. Some aspects you can control: the quality of your work, your ethics, but some things you cannot. Next time I will write about how I put together the campaign shoot with some behind the scenes material. It turned out quite nice.