One of the risks of doing “hyper-local*” media work is that if you don’t make a constant effort to look out past the horizon, your universe gets very small. A few weeks ago I noticed in passing that a delegation of Lamas from Drepung Loseling were scheduled to visit the Asia Society Texas Center to create another sand mandala. This is always a special event, but in Houston it’s not really THAT uncommon – one group of Tibetan Lamas or another comes through about every year or so. The thing is, though, after the first few minutes it’s not THAT much of a spectator sport, and I’ve seen it several times, so I marked it on the calendar out of habit and went on looking for stories.
The people involved with this are pretty slick about getting the word out, though, and the blip on the radar kept growing, and growing. And I kept thinking “nah, everyone knows about this, and every photographer within fifty miles will be there…”
See, my philosophy on covering minor news events without an assignment leans strongly in the direction of “hit `em where they ain’t”; if an event is going to draw a couple dozen other photogs, it’s unlikely I’ll find anything they aren’t getting, which means I’m mostly blocking the view of the paying customers, and selling anything after the fact is a matter of out-marketing those other guys… a thing for which I have no gift, little skill and even less inclination.
But as it turns out.. “everyone” was only most of the population of Houston proper. I mentioned the event, again in passing, to a Foreign Facebook Friend on Friday night, and he lit up like a neon sign. He’s at least 3/4ths of a Buddhist, you see, and had never seen the mandala work….and in and around the flood of words he typed at me over the next fifteen minutes I caught on that the message was “man, you just GOTTA go photograph this for me. You gotta, you gotta, you just HAVE TO…”
*a current buzzword – translates to “full coverage of the neighborhood, less coverage of the next street over, fading to virtually no information at all about anything more than twenty miles out…”