After visiting the NFL Hall of Fame earlier in the day, I had about 5 hours to get make it to Arkona, Cananda for tomorrows workshop.
Very long story short (about 2 hours of hassle with border agents) I was turned away and told to return to the US, as apparently teaching Photography to a friend(s), even without ANY pay is illegal. When I was entering the country they asked me what I did for a living, I told them Im a photographer and I teach photography. He then asked if I had my cameras with me and I said “Yes”. Apparently this was all they needed to bring me in for more questioning. The gate-border gaurd who assigned me to go into the main customs building was a true jerk. The guy inside the customs building was also a jerk, just not quite as much as the character in the booth, his poor wife!
Inside, they asked who I was visiting (as I said I was coming to visit Heather and teach her some photography skills) asked for their contact information and then called them to confirm everything I was saying, which they did. Despite the fact that everything I had said was true, the guard said “I cannot allow you to enter, I know this is really lame, but its the law and its my job- I have to do it”.
So there you have it beloved readers- Oh ya, in case you are wondering how much money I was “exporting out of Canada”, I had one Canadian person (the host) register and pay a very minimal amount ($150) to help cover some of my travel expenses. I knew there would be 2 others (Americans) who had registered for different workshops in the US attending this one instead, and possibly 1 other person showing up, but otherwise, to the best of my knowledge I hadnt recieved any money from any Canadians besides the host. The Canadian Agents said “Even if you were teaching for free for that matter, you cannot do this as you are a professional and this is your trade, you would have to have a work visa, even if you arent being paid at all.”
On the way back, the US agents put me through another 40 minutes of questioning and record checking just because “we want to see who you are”. I will say the US agent I was working with was an extremely cool dude, and we started talking about photography gear.
On the way out, he told me: “Be extremely careful about going back to Canada, they have marked you in their records for this incident. If you try to get in again with your cameras, they will BAN you from entering, EVER AGAIN.” I was like “you have to be kidding?” and hes like “No, Im not. If you want to visit Canada, make sure that you dont bring your cameras with you, even one little SLR they see this as one of your tools and if you have it and are entering their borders there is no way for them to tell what your intentions are with it.” What this means is, if I ever want to enter Canada’s borders for the rest of my life with an SLR camera, I will have to apply for a work visa, even if I am not working. Yes…thats right. Please learn from my mistake in terms of discussing what you do for a living with border agents if it involves photography and you have cameras with you. The crazy thing is if I was a Geneticist and had cameras with me, none of this would have happened.
I have learned that life is better when I believe that any problem I encounter is an opportunity to learn and to benefit IF I can look at it creatively. As a teaching point, as soon as I was back, I got to work to solve the problem (what are we going to do about tomorrow’s workshop). Life is a lot like football, sometimes things break down, things happen, and you have an opportunity to demonstrate a little mental toughness, put the mistake behind you and move forward. If you dwell too much on things that go bad, it will paralyze you from making a play on the next down. So, coming over I saw a Holiday Inn Express (which I really LOVE BTW). Pulled in, booked myself in for 2 nights, plus a conference room for tomorrow. Called Heather and asked her and anyone else who was still interested in coming to meet me there at 9. Im still not sure who is coming or who isnt, but if its just a few people, thats all I need. Problem solved, it took about 10 minutes. The show will go on!
When things dont go as planned (which will happen to you as a photographer)- dont focus so much on what went wrong or why when the game is still in play- adapt/adjust/attack the task at hand, solve the problem, move forward. If you are on a shoot and your camera/gear stops working, if you were to freak out too much about it, you wont be able to complete the shoot and miss the opportunity to be a play maker. Dont let these things rattle you. Find a solution. “Analyze” mistakes after the game.
Ultimately, looking back on this now, I am to blame for not doing better research on work visas. Live and learn. Time to crash.
Looking forward to an awesome workshop tomorrow. 🙂