Tromso, and the greed in cruise photography

23 May

The Norwegian town of Tromso has a beautiful botanical garden, which is just starting to bloom. Mind you, we have reached the end of May, making it a bit weird to see flowers erupting that, over in Central Europe, already lost their last petals six weeks ago. The garden must be quite a sight once all the snow has retreated, so I am already looking forward to our return to Tromso, which is scheduled for early June.

I was actually supposed to spend the first three port hours on the gangway, dressed up in some ridiculous templar costume, and posing for photos with our cruise passengers. Fortunately, the port of Tromso was engulfed in light drizzle and wind, so our manager decided to cancel that shooting. Sometimes the photo manager almost appears humane in nature. Then you recall that eight hours ago he called you and all of your team mates “a shame for photography”, and you decide to wipe him from your memory, and discover Tromso instead.

Tromso, Norway. A port view.

Tromso in early spring is still cold, but already pretty.

In the botanical garden I met a German couple who recognized me as one of the cruise photographers aboard the ABC RypMeOff. First the man and I nerded out about the rock outcrops and the geological exhibition just uphill from the botanical garden. But within three minutes the conversation steered unstoppably towards my position as cruise photographer, and the perils that the job entails. It is the very first cruise for this couple, and even though they only have been aboard for four days, they have long since realized that the photo department is more focused on selling pictures than on providing any kind of service. And when they realized that the Photo Gallery was solely focused on making money, they immediately zipped up their wallet.

So, the secret is out. Cruise Photography is a business, just like anything else aboard. Our passengers refuse to become costumers, because they feel the greed that blatantly surrounds every photographer aboard this vessel. And I mean EVERY photographer, including myself. Before the start of this particular cruise our fleet supervisor personally instructed us to push for great numbers, both in photos taken, and in merchandise sold. “These passengers have paid up to €5000 for this two-week Norway cruise. They have the money, so let’s find a way to take it from them.” That instruction leaves little ambiguity as to what the primary objective of this department actually is. We are to create revenue, and drain every last dollar from those pesky passengers.

Botanical garden in Tromso, Norway

In May the botanical garden in Tromso is still a hodgepodge of rocks and shrubbery.

It is only fitting that our manager starts our work day with a training session, in which he explains the company philosophies. The official training slides of ABC Cruises proclaim that the “external guest comes to enjoy himself, and spend money”. The added commentary of our fleet supervisor leaves little ambiguity as to which of those two passenger goals we should assist with.

When I signed up for this job I knew that my position was part of a business plan. Every company makes money by selling a product, and I am happy to assist with that effort, as long as all parties agree willingly to the deal at hand. However, photographers with ABC Cruises are pushed to sell, not to assist, which puts the complicity of our costumers into question. Greed is the primary value that drives this company, and German tourists appear to be allergic to it, which explains the disaster of the North Cape excursions. You can’t fool the Germans. And you can’t convince me to try.


For a gallery of cold Tromso, click here.

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