Photo Management and Schadenfreude

28 May

It’s another sea day, and my messy cell mate is off to work the morning shift. I had to haul a pile of his clothing across the cabin to make space for my laptop, but at least our “shared” desk no longer is a beach of crumbs, and talcum powder. Thus, I actually have time and space to continue my writing. [Spoiler Alert! During my contract as cruise photographer I never had much, if any, spare time, so all these well-written blog posts had to be edited and published after my return to the main land. I should have used my time to work on that manuscript with my former supervisor, but instead I usually focused on gathering thoughts for my blog. If you don’t tell him, neither will I.]

Every night the photographers aboard the ABC RypMeOff build photo booths across the ship, and try to shoot loads of passenger portraits. Our management always provides us with a target number that we should aim for, and we usually miss that target by a considerable margin. Even though we really try to argue and convince passengers to have their pictures taken at their dining room tables and in photo booths, most of them simply have enough of those photos already, and rather shoo us away. So last night our team brought back approximately forty photos per person and dining room, while our target was roughly five times that number, leaving our manager to grumble about our apparent deficiencies. We know that the numbers aren’t good, but our manager can’t resist the urge to rub it in, so last night he sent us to bed with yet another one of his berating speeches. The photo manager has always questioned our engagement in the job, and bragged about his own potential, but last night he delivered a whole new package of idiosyncrasy.

Cruise Photography with portable lights

Apparently there is always someone taking photos aboard the ABC RypMeOff. Even if nobody wants their photos taken anyway.

According to manager Mihai we do not involve ourselves, even try to avoid work. That would also explain the low number of portraits that we shot along this cruise: there is barely a night in which we exceeded one third of the targeted number. Manager Mihai went through great lengths to point out that Bolek consistently shoots more photos than any of the rank-1 photographers, despite missing at least five years of their experience. He then went on saying that Bolek shot a shameful thirteen pictures last night, which massively undermines his whole argument, but nether the less – Bolek is the most involved shooter on this ship, and he is really shitty. [I’m not sure what I was supposed to gain from that statement, but we have learned not to argue with Mihai’s “logic”, because it only brews up additional anger.]

Somehow Mihai never mentioned my name in his angry tirade. Which is just as well, because I only shot three evenings out of eleven, which somewhat skews his “statistical comparison”. One might also mention that some locations see relatively little traffic to begin with, making it impossible to compare anyone’s efforts. Additionally, passengers tend to avoid any location where they were shot before, and long port days see relatively greater degrees of tiredness among the already unwilling passengers than the boring and uneventful sea days. None of that really matters, because any attempt at explaining reality to Mihai just stirs up more trouble.

Cruise Photography during embarkation

Shooting grumpy passengers is actually stressful enough, but our manager thinks he should add some trouble of his own.

According to the “most amazing photo manager” we are “too lazy” to work, “do not involve ourselves”, and spend too much time “f#@&ing around” while on the job. In essence, we do not make any effort to shoot pictures, and are, therefore, a “shame as photographers”. The experienced rank-1 photographers should “never been promoted”, and soil the rank they embody. As little as I like my coworkers, I do hope that some of them are secretly submissive masochists, so that the humiliation at least fulfills their hidden fetishes.

However, Mihai’s daily task of berating and shaming his team did not end there. He finished with an empty promise, and a bold one at that. During the next cruise, on the last gala evening, he will shoot one restaurant all by himself, only accompanied by his assistant manager (probably to record his victorious campaign, and to tell the world of the miracles he witnessed). Since Mihai is more engaged than the rest of us, he will shoot EVERYONE who sits in the dining room at that time. He is also going to shoot portraits in one location of our choosing. Obviously, he will “make 600 pictures, easy”, which constitutes about twice our normal target, and ten times of what the passengers allow us to shoot.

In anticipation of said events I invented the term “Schadenvorfreude”. It describes the fun feeling that something terrible is going to happen to a bad person. Such as the physical assault charge that Mihal will face when he tries to drag unwilling passengers into his studio. Or his humiliation upon realising that it is physically impossible to shoot three-hundred passengers in half an hour. I slept well last night, embracing myself in my moral superiority, and the warm feeling of Schadenvorfreude. Too bad that one week from now Mihai won’t remember any of his empty promises. And none of us is likely to remind him, since most of us would rather go to bed an hour earlier than listen to his incoherent rambles regarding his imagined superpowers.

Drizzle and trees in Molde Fjord, Norway

Always remember Molde. The lone tree in a magically misty forest. It helps pass the time during any obstructive manager meeting.

On the plus side, tomorrow a new manager will come aboard, and if nothing extraordinarily weird happens, he will replace Manager Mihai at the end of the next cruise. (From past blog posts you already know that the bar for “extraordinarily weird” is very high.) All of the suffering may see its end, even without my terminal resignation.

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