We are who we say we are

A few weeks ago Amina Arraf, author of Gay Girl in Damascus, a blog documenting the experiences of a half-Syrian, half-American lesbian living in Syria, was outed as being, in fact, the very male (and heterosexual) Tom MacMaster, an American PhD student living in Edinburgh.

Given the fact that MacMaster’s blog had been an important source of information and opinion for many about life within Syria during the Arab Spring there was understandable anger when the charade was revealed. The story developed even further a few days later when the founder of the lesbian website Lez Get Real also came out: “Paula Brooks” was in fact Bill Graber, another very much male, very much heterosexual blogger.

The most astonishing part of this story for me was reading that a woman in Canada believed herself to be in a romantic relationship with Amina Arraf, despite having never spoken to Amina on the phone. Their relationship had blossomed without either ever hearing the voice of the other.

I email, I tweet, I even (as of now) blog. The other day I had to pause for a few seconds to figure out how to use my smartphone to make an actual phone call, I use it so rarely as a phone. Email has certainly made elements of our work here at akg much easier, we no longer have to call bike couriers late on a Friday night to deliver a package of prints and transparencies to newspaper photo editors, desperate to illustrate a breaking news story in the next day’s edition… but email relationships with clients are often too perfunctory for my liking, lots of very short messages about scan sizes and e-book rights. There’s a lot to be said for chatting to clients, even if (whisper it) you’re not always gabbing about work! The picture industry is filled with incredibly sociable and personable people who love any excuse to get together which makes events like this year’s Fotofringe so essential: not just as a venue to make deals and discuss projects, but just to see and be seen.

That’s why we recently held an akg Summer Brunch in the office, inviting as many researchers as we could comfortably fit into the building. Yes, we had some of our newest promo material on show and I plugged some of our recent collaborations and collections for specific projects, but it was not a marketing presentation. It was a fantastic opportunity to welcome researchers back to the akg offices and to remind us all of the faces (and people) behind the emails.