I maintain throughout this chapter that going it alone is the way to go. But sometimes, particularly while traveling in new and foreign cultures, you'll find a little help goes a long way. If you're serious about your photography, I can't say enough about hiring an assistant—in journalism circles, known as a "fixer"—who can help you navigate new and unfamiliar territory. There's no question that you can save time and money, and get images that you would not be able to get without the help of someone who is intimately familiar with the territory you are venturing into. This is particularly true when traveling in places where you don't speak the language.
All the knowledge and research in the world can't accelerate your assignment success like the help of a trusted member of the community you're in ( 4.16 ). Most of my travel photography has been done with the help of locals, many of whom have opened doors for me and become friends as I've gone back to visit them a second or third time.
4.16 I always try to have some local support on the ground when I travel to a new destination. It makes a huge difference in speeding up the process to get images that are more intimate and natural with people, and locals can often tell you the best locations from which to shoot. Rita Hoza, 59, has lost children to HIV/AIDS. Outside her home, her 6-year-old grandchild Azile goes off to play with friends while Rita takes a call on her cell phone.©Steve Simon
Once the doors are opened, a good assistant stands back and I go to work alone, but getting through that opened door is where the help is needed.
Community photography and travel sites might have recommendations for who to hire, as would the photojournalistic community on sites like www.lightstalkers.org. Local colleges and universities are another resource, as are local camera clubs.