Photography Rights

March 24, 2008

Cominco Trains (Copyright Eddy Piasentin)Photojojo, a great photography site with fun project ideas and lots of inspiration, has posted an item about photography and the law. They summarize the ten legal commandments of photography. There’s even a link to another site that covers the Canadian perspective.

Commandment eight, for example, says:

If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor do you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)

The photo of mine above was taken just before I was approached by security while out on a personal photography project. I was shooting trains on Cominco’s property in Trail, BC. After about 10 minutes of wandering around, a security vehicle showed up. He asked who I was and what I was doing. I explained and gave my identity–contrary to the noted commandment–mostly because the guard was very polite and I figured I had nothing to hide. After a few moments, we both laughed as we realized we knew each other: we had met years earlier, when his sister married one of my cousins.

At work, I run into photographic permission issues regularly. We photograph employees all the time for our monthly internal e-magazine and increasingly we’re shooting people (staff and civilians) for external projects like annual reports. We developed our own model release form, which we use quite diligently, except for the internal work. We tend to let things slide when shooting for internal purposes, since everyone knows who we are and why we’re walking around with our cameras. If someone explicitly asks that their photo not be used–or taken–we honour the request. This “shoot first, beg forgiveness later” approach has served us well, since we get much more coverage than we otherwise might. This became quite clear the few times we’ve asked permission to take and use photos and staff, given the choice, refused.


The Dip–Should I Stay or Should I Go?

March 21, 2008

The Dip, by Seth GodinI’ve recently finished reading marketing guru Seth Godin‘s latest book, The Dip. It’s a quick read. Which I’d say is a plus, since it really felt like an extended blog post, and not always in a positive way.

The book is basically about quitting. Godin’s premise is that you need to figure out if a project you’re working on, or even your job or career, is worth doing any more. The “dip” in The Dip refers to the low point you might find yourself in as you struggle to work through some challenge. For example, if you just got a new guitar, you’re likely excited to learn how to play it; you’re motivated, hyped and very keen. But as time marches on, you begin to realize that learning the guitar takes some effort: bingo! You’re in the dip. The only question now is, do you trudge through and become proficient or do you abandon the effort altogether?

I had really high hopes when I started this book. And there were a few highlights. A few sections spoke to me–personally and professionally–but mostly the book felt disorganized and random. It bounced around from concept to concept, with a quick-cut style that at best felt forced–and actually it felt copied (see below for what I mean).*

One section I found I enjoyed was “Quitting as an Intelligent Strategy.” Here Godin tells a story of Doug, a good employee who has, after more than a decade with his company, plateaued.

Doug needs to leave for a very simple reason. He’s been branded. Everyone at the company has an expectation of who Doug is and what he can do. He’s not going to be challenged, pushed, or promoted to president. Doug, regardless of what he could actually accomplish, has stopped evolving–at least in the eyes of the people who matter. If he leaves and joins another company, he gets to reinvent himself. No one in the new company will remember young Doug from ten years ago. No, they’ll treat Doug as the new Doug, the Doug with an endless upside and little past.

This really hit home for me because it’s exactly what I did two years ago. I didn’t fully quit, but I took a secondment to a government ministry. I felt I needed to shake up myself and the perceptions people had of me after working for a number of years in the same office. The secondment was also a valuable experience since it was a definite step up in responsibility and exposed me to some fresh points of view. After about six months I returned to my office, and things had changed. Roles were redefined and I was now to be a supervisor and take on other, higher level, projects. It felt, at least for a while, that the decision to leave, if only temporarily, had a positive impact. Now, two years on, I’ve got new boundaries to overcome, new perceptions to change, so reading Godin’s words have spurred me on once again.

*So one last thing. The style of Godin’s book felt very familiar to me as I read it, almost as if I had read it before. It wasn’t until I was in about a quarter of the way–and after seeing a few of the cartoon sketches that pepper the book–that it hit me. Godin was sounding almost exactly like the creator of the very cartoons featured in his book: Hugh MacLeod. Specifically, if you read MacLeod’s fantastic–and I mean fantastic!–How to be Creative you should quickly recognize the literary style of Godin in The Dip. The fact that Godin uses MacLeod to illustrate his book makes the comparison just to overwhelming not to notice.

Now, MacLeod’s manifesto is the kind of thing I was hoping for from Godin’s book. When I first read it eons ago, I was truly inspired. No other writing in recent memory has had such a strong impact on me from a professional and creative point of view. I’ve re-read How to be Creative at least five times, and a tattered printed copy sits not far from my desk, ready and available for the next time I need the smelling salts of its words. Really, if it comes down to it, I’d recommend How to be Creative over The Dip. And best of all, it’s free.

Poor Customer Service – On the Line Forever With Budget

March 11, 2008

How long should it take to have a customer-service call answered? Two minutes? Five? Fifteen? How about more than 60? That’s how long I stayed on hold with Victoria’s Budget Car Rental today. Unbelievable. And in the end, the call was never answered.

Certain companies–Telus comes to mind–have made big strides in speeding up the process and getting calls answered quickly. But it seems others simply don’t put in the same effort.

Now, the individuals I dealt with at the Budget lot were great–very friendly, professional–except there was a bit of a lapse in service that led to me being on the phone forever. Basically, we had accidentally left our baby stroller in the back of the courtesy van that dropped us off at their lot. As soon as we pulled into our driveway at home, we realized we had left the stroller behind, hence the phone call. In the end, my wife stayed home with the line still on hold–we listened on speakerphone to Budget’s on-hold advertisements all through dinner–as I took off in my car back downtown to catch them before the office closed. After driving downtown, retrieving the stroller and returning home, I walked into our house hearing the incessantly chirpy advertising still beaming from the phone. Brutal.

At a recent staff meeting at work we had a brief brainstorming session about customer service. We all through out ideas as to what it meant to us. While I think it’s easy to say the right thing in a situation like that, to spout the cliched statements about golden rules and all the rest, it’s quite another to actually put them into practice. Whether you’re a government office or a large car-rental outfit, the real test is when a client tries to use the services you’ve put into place.