Wednesday, August 27, 2014

There's reasonable, and then there's not.

So far this week (and it's only Wednesday!) I've written and sold stories about Kakadu, Queensland, Thailand and pets on planes. As always, writing the stories is the easy part - what takes the time is sorting and editing the photos. Usually that's just because of dithering between similar shots, straightening the horizon (sigh), cropping, and fiddling with the exposure. Then they have to be filed, with captions, and a contact sheet made. All a bit tiresome, especially since I know that, more often than not, none of them will be chosen by the editor, entirely for reasons of cost, with a disappointing loss of relevance and impact on the final layout.

With both the Kakadu and Thailand stories, though, there's been an extra and time-consuming step: getting approval. Bangkok hospital's Medical Museum is anxious about respect and human rights, since its exhibits are dead people, there for teaching purposes rather than to be gawped at by curious tourists, some of whom are no doubt freak-show fans who don't give a moment's consideration to the losses behind the exhibits. Although Google is full of images from the various divisions of the museum (and I've added to it myself in this blog), for publication it has to be done properly, which takes time of course. But since I had a story published just a week ago that's been on the paper's files since April last year, maybe that's not important...

With Kakadu, as for any story about places in Australia with traditional owners, there's a quite remarkable amount of paperwork to be dealt with by media before being allowed in with our cameras and notebooks. In order to encourage the general public to come and enjoy them, and support the local businesses, you understand. Ahem. But that's ok, you don't have to spend much time in the Outback to know that there's an awful lot of making up to be done by the Government to the Aboriginal people. And, to be fair, there are a lot of sacred places that even ordinary tourists are discouraged from going to, and photographing - climbing Uluru is a case in point - so having to submit all your photos for approval is no more than an inconvenience, really.

But not showing images of people swimming in Outback waterholes? Now that's just silly - the official line is that it can never be guaranteed that there isn't a crocodile in there somewhere; and also that jumping into pools is dangerous because of rocks. Well, as our guide Dan said, "Jumping into waterholes is a human right." You can't walk through that desiccated landscape and come across a deep, green, perfect-temperature pool of water and not be expected to jump into it. Come on, already!

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