Thursday, December 8, 2011

World Photographer

I live in a city that thrives on tourism and I, being the nice girl I am, feel it’s my duty to act as ambassador. I often stop to assist tourists who seem lost, but it’s those with cameras who really draw me.

There are those who visit Victoria, British Columbia, who squish their faces together with one outstretched arm holding the camera, only to get a distorted picture of themselves with half the Empress Hotel in the background. Then there are those who opt to use the camera timer and quickly stumble to their pre-set position in the group. The result is a photo with smiles forced from waiting too long for the timer to go off – and it’s lucky the photographer didn’t trip on his/her way to the group.

But heck, at least they have a photo of themselves - so that’s something.

But for those who are fumbling to get the greatest, memorable photo of all time, I can’t just walk by and NOT help them in some way.

So on behalf of Tourism British Columbia, I offer to take their picture for them. (Disclaimer: no one asks me to do this, I don’t get paid by the tourism folks – I’m just being nice.)

I have done this for a while now, meeting folks from all parts of the world, and am often met with varying degrees of acceptance; the resulting experiences, memorable.

One nice couple, surprised by the outpouring of Canadian generosity (I think they were from some far-off continent), declined politely at first, as if they were putting ME out. Um, I offered. Noting their hesitancy as they weighed the situation, it was clear they wanted to take me up on the offer. I urged the issue: “Are you sure? I don’t mind?” So, man, wife, and toddler grinned widely as I snapped a photo of them on the front lawn of the Empress Hotel. They were most, most appreciative, and somewhere in the world (in some far-off continent), is their touristy family photo - without my name credit.

Some folks wholeheartedly take me up on my offer, profusely thanking me for this divine opportunity. It’s always the man missing from the photo. The joy he exudes at the concept that he finally gets to be in a photo has him skipping over to stand beside his wife. His sandals, black socks, Hawaiian shirt (?), windblown comb-over, and sunglasses are forever photographically preserved.

I often have folks ask me to take their picture on the ferry between Vancouver and Victoria. I must exude welcoming Canadian pheromones, or something. I got to chatting with one couple after taking their picture, and their down-unda accents gave them away. As newlyweds, they were exploring Caaanada and all its’ glory, so I was happy to be part of their honeymoon - sort of. And nothing says Canada like a ferry smelling of White Spot burgers dripping with Triple O sauce - my personal fave. But heck, it’s all in the name of tourism and ambassadorship.

I should work for the U.N.

Sometimes, however, I am met with scepticism when making this generous offer. They hug their cameras and bags closer to them, frantically looking for someone resembling police. I suspect they fear I will either take their camera and run, or mug them for their Rogers' Chocolates bag (very tempting). Well if you saw me - knew me - you would know I am not the mugging type. Not that there is a ‘type’ for that sort of thing, but…

And then, sadly, there are those who, after a brief, calculating assessment of my person, brush me off as quickly as they can. Avoiding as much conversation as possible, they turn and head in the opposite direction from where they were going, making me want to yell: “But Emily Carr’s house is that way!” I have come to the conclusion they are not so much afraid of being left camera-less, but are fearful I will demand a tip for their photograph - or for saying ‘hi,’ being nice, or turning their map right-side up.

But this doesn't stop me from exuding Canadian hospitality. So I have learned to avoid a collision of countries and approach my global interactions accordingly. I don’t want to ruin my country's good name.


  1. Another lovely, thought-provoking post, Lisa.

    Can you imagine living inside the head of someone who wouldn't want you (I mean – you!) to take a photo of him or her on his or her own camera? Your head is a much nicer place to be.

  2. Thank you, Rachel! It's always interesting, other people's reactions - when you're only trying to be a nice gal! Thank you for reading - Lisa