Then Jack Happened


Dear Jack,

I am throwing a big anniversary party for a close friend. Well, I am mostly throwing a big party.  The couple met at the college we all attended and the whole crew has used their big events, a baby shower, a baby, now a ten-year anniversary, as a nice excuse to have a big blow out and reminisce about old times.  I am planning this with the wife, and we are looking to get a photographer. Enter my issue. One of our close friends is a photographer that I know has occasional money problems. I’d like to pay him some money to photograph the party that he’d be attending anyway. It’s true, I probably wouldn’t spend as much on him than I would another professional, but another professional won’t be drinking rum and coke and eating dinner. I asked him and he said that he would pass. I was kind of put off by this and pressed him and he acted a bit offended and we left it in a huff. Honestly I’m a little offended! We are close, and this would be super helpful and I like his pictures.  Am I wrong to be offended? Is he?

The interesting thing about taking offense is that it’s completely personal to the offended party.  Are you wrong to be offended? Is he? That’s up to you and him individually. People can be offended for completely unreasonable reasons but the unreasonableness does not change the fact that they are offended nor can you expect someone to be offended for something that society at-large deems offensive if it really doesn’t move their meter.

Now after that bit of human discussion I will say this: you are wrong and he is right. You asked a friend to perform a paid service that he refused and that’s where the discussion should have ended. If he wanted the job he would have said yes. It wasn’t until you pressed him that he became offended, and rightfully so. First, it seems you low-balled him. The discount request sounds professionally insulting and off-putting. Your request wasn’t as magnanimous as you believe despite your impressions of his supposed money problems. Second, you are asking a friend to work during what is supposed to be a pleasant social event. So what if he gets to eat and drink?  A professional would pay attention to his work and if he didn’t I can only imagine the hullaballoo when he handed you some drunken pictures.  Your request changed a friend’s status from happy guest—smiling and catching up on old sock-hops and naughty drive-in movies—to a bargain employee.  I might be overstating this, but it’s a logical viewpoint and probably not too far from the truth.

On to your offense. You need to learn to take ‘no’ for an answer.  People get rejected all the time.  If your first response is, “How dare he?” you are missing the difference between ‘asking’ and ‘demanding.’ That being said, I don’t think it was wrong for you to ask him to photograph the event. Your response is the issue. You seem to put a lot of work into organizing these events and I hope that your friends, including our photographer chum, appreciate your efforts. You requesting, and in some cases expecting, some assistance makes a lot of sense.  Refusals to pitch in for large communal parities can in some cases be rude.  But I think this request is unique because you asked a friend to perform his professional job at an event where he is a guest and he was within his rights to refuse.  You should nicely apologize before you lose not only a photographer but also a friend.

South Florida, I remember the sock-hop, you asked me to set up the ‘Free Advice’ booth, now it’s time to pay me back with questions at