Saturday, July 09, 2011

Need your advice!

Rose, my wonderful faxineira (once a week cleaner) is getting married in November. I started thinking about her wedding and while my Portuguese limits our ability to really talk about how happy and excited she must be, I would like to do something for her special day. My first thought was of course various gift ideas but then I wondered if she had a photographer. I don't want to sound snotty, but they are so expensive I doubt that would be a luxury she could afford. So I thought I could offer to take pictures for her. I am totally amateur but I really enjoy it and hope to someday take pictures more professionally. To do that, I need practice and diversity of occasions. So I could take her pictures for free, give her a CD and use them as portfolio pieces if they turn out well. Do you think thats fair for her though? I don't want to ask her without understanding better a few dynamics of brazilians and their maids.

Is it crossing the line? Would she feel obligated once I asked thinking that turning down my offer might hurt her job? Might she be uncomfortable showing me her lifestyle? Would she even have access to a computer to use the CD of pictures? I don't want to assume she wouldn't have someone already taking pictures, or would she even care to have them at all? But the big question is, am I overstepping a boundary here?

Thanks for your help!


Jim said...

It is a very nice gesture on your part to want to help her memorialize her wedding ceremony and party.

But I have some concerns. First - if you were going to take photos, I think you should definitely produce a book with 20 or so prints that she can show her friends and relatives. DO NOT assume a CD would be enough. We went to a poor relative's wedding and became the photographer by accident (we were the only family present with a camera). We gave them a CD with all the photos, but they absolutely needed finished images to share with friends. They would never have spent the money to print some of the images.

Also I think it is reasonable that she would not want one of her employers present at a family gathering. Don't take offense, but class is a powerful dynamic here.

If it were me I would give her an extra month's salary to use as she needs/wishes. (And maybe ALSO do the photos.)

It's a tough cultural divide. Good luck.

Ray and Gil said...

Dear Jana,

I know for a fact that wedding pictures are a huge deal for Brazilians, including a video of the wedding. Even if it is expensive for her, keep in mind Brazilians have a "jeitinho" to do everything. That might include a Photo place in her area that caters to folks with less money and let's them pay in 18 monthly installments, making it possible for the pictures and wedding video.
Brazilians, principally Brazilians of humble origins are extremely proud and avoid confrontation at all costs. They will never tell you no, no matter how hard it is for them to say yes. So, even if she has already arranged for a professional photographer, and is embarrassed about exposing her humble lifestyle, she would never tell you no.
But, please, keep in mind, my comment is an absurd generalization from my personal experience. She might just be opened to inviting you to take the pictures and sharing details of her lifestyle, I would have to know her personality to be able to give you more accurate advice. :)
Just keep one thing in mind, wedding photography and wedding videos are a huge part of the wedding experience for Brazilians. Even if she is poor, she might have saved for years and planned ahead, not to mention, professional photographers make it easy for people to pay for their services by allowing them to pay in several monthly installments.
You could always ask her if she has already planned for a photographer to cover the wedding and go from there...
Sorry if I can't be more helpful.


Jana @ Paper plains said...

Jim and Ray- thanks so much, all very good advice!! I am leaning towards Jims advice of just giving her an extra weeks pay but I do appreciate all the comments! I didn't consider the idea of her being able to pay with installments like most everything else here... still thinking it out though! =)

Ray and Gil said...


It sounds great! I like Jim's idea as well. :)


Zoe said...

I tend to agree with Ray and Jim. I highly doubt that wouldn't have a photographer--as Ray said it's super important and just not something you'd go without, there's always a way to figure it out, pay in installments, etc. Jim's idea of extra pay would always be welcome, of course.

Does she know that you've photographed weddings before? If not, maybe start out by showing her your portfolio over coffee and see where it goes from there.

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