Tag Archives: freelance photographer

Chevron Refinery, Soon in a Hotel Near You

Chevron Refinery by night, soon in a hotel near you. Copyright: Miriam Mannak

Last week Friday, I sommer received a phone call from a guy who runs a graphic design business. One of his clients, the Radisson hotel folk, found one of my pictures online. They loved it so much, in fact, that they want to use it as the main artwork in their new City Park Hotel in Cape Town (in the CBD). How awesome is that? This is basically what they want to do with it:

* In the Hotel Lift Lobby on the Ground Floor, my image will be divided into 5 separate panels approx. 500mmx600mm)

* The lift lobbies on the other 9 floors, will feature 1 image from the panels downstairs

* My image will be printed and hung in the Passage Wall (again divided into 5 separate panels)

I think it is rather fantstic! The design company is meeting the client this morning, to discuss my terms and conditions. Let’s keep fingers crossed!

Now about the picture: I took took quite a while back at the Chevron refinery just outside of Cape Town. It is a night shot, taken on a tripod and with a long exposure. The red flare is a truck passing by (I was standing rather close to the road), and the yellow stripe is its headlights.


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When Twitterers turn into Twats

Tantrum of the day

One of the annoying sides of being a journalist is having Bob and his uncle and his brother and his second cousins and their neighbours knocking on your virtual door with some story they think the world should absolutely know. Sometimes you are presented with absolute gems of stories yet sometimes, well, you are told about visions of Mary and Jesus and Joseph in packs of cornflakes, cats with five legs that can do the Cha Cha and other useless crap.

You also have people who present you with a potentially interesting story and who come with all sorts of allegations but refuse to tell you a) who they are b) where they got their information. Instead of coming clean, they remain hidden behind a virtual wall called Twitter or Facebook.

Yesterday was a classic example. In the afternoon, I was contacted by a Twitterer / Tweeter / Twat / Twit by the name of @Dewaninews. He had read one of my stories for I-net Bridge on the Dewani murder saga.

In short: In November this year a honeymooning couple – Anni and Shrien Dewani – got hijacked in Gugulethu. Hubby and driver are pushed out of car, wife is taken with, shot three times and killed. What seemed to be a ‘conventional’ gang murder South African style could possibly turn into something totally different – if the allegations and rumours are true of course. The fact that Shrien has been arrested in connection to the murder does not make him guilty just yet. Because we live in a democracy and a civilized state, and no longer in the middle ages. And in civilized states you are innocent until proven otherwise.

Anyway, back to my Twatter @Dewaninews, who spammed me with tweets for about an hour or two and ignored various requests for an email address. As a journalist it is my task to check not only my facts but also sources. The source claims he / she sent me a telephone number – which again proved to be BS. My replies have been erased because I have blocked him in the meantime.

A few tweets:

@dewaninews-  Shrien #Dewani is not to be trusted. I’ve known him since 1990. DM me for more info.

@dewaninews – I went to school with him + live near his family. He’s been involved in petty crime b4 + his dad always bails him out.

@dewaninews – he’s obsessed with the film ‘Scarface’ + often boasted he could have people “whacked” (murdered). But most of all – he is gay.

@dewaninews – his family, especially his Dad, put huge pressure on him to marry. Shrien is homosexual though

@dewaninews – true that petty crime does not nec mean murder. He has a history of getting away with crime tho. He felt above the law true that petty crime does not nec mean murder. He has a history of getting away with crime tho. He felt above the law true that petty crime does not nec mean murder. He has a history of getting away with crime tho. He felt above the law

@dewaninews – actually it does if you are gay and forced to marry a woman when you’re not attracted to women. This’ll all be in Daily Mail

@dewaninews – Daily Mail piece will be out online later today. Reason Shrien’s last engagement broke down is coz he is gay and she found out

@dewaninews – it may sound trivial to you but Anni threatened to ‘out’ Shrien as gay to her family and his #Dewani – he killed her instead

@dewaninews – you may as well just wait and copy the Daily Mail piece. South African press been doing that a lot. UK first with news!

@dewaninews – I’m very fond of your work actually

@dewaninews – I’ve already told you who I am. I’m a Bristolian who has known Shrien and fam for years

@dewaninews – I’m not sure you have enough clout for me to proceed. I’m only interested in big-name newspapers

@dewaninews – let’s meet for s*x Miri

@dewaninews – @urcrazytoo @miriammannak Shrien’s gay. He killed her so his family wouldn’t find out he is a faggot #Dewani

@dewaninews – I’ve DM’d you my phone number #Dewani #ShrienIsGay

And so the “conversation” goes.

Look @Dewaninews, buddy, whether you have your facts right or not – journalists who take their job seriously will never ever ever write something like: “Shrien Dewani is gay and therefore he killed his wife”, said a tweeter who claims to have gone to school with Mr Dewani’s but who refuses to disclose his or her identity.

We.Won’t.Do.Anything.With.It.If.We.Don’t.Know.Who.You.Are. We won’t, no matter how good your story might sound. Well, I won’t do anything with it. Period and case closed.

Why? Because you could be anyone, from a 13-year old school girl with braces, his former fiancée, my next door neighbour, and a random bored housewife to an ex-mate who for what ever reason wants to get even.

So come clean @dewaninews. If you are as real as you say you are, you send me that email I asked you for.  If not: leave me the hell alone and get a life. Thanks.



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Kill-Murder-Death to all cockroaches

Thought of the day

I hate them. I despise them with a genuine, heartfelt passion (I am actually just shit scared of them, really). Even a mere thought of them makes me cringe and gag and sweat buckets. I can take spiders and snakes and rats and drug dealing and gun wielding gangsters. I don’t mind politicians either. Well, I mind them (some of them) but I am not scared of them. I am okay with geckos, I can handle toads and frogs and mice and most other creepy crawlies.

But present me with a cock*OnMyWordSaveMe!*roach and I turn into this shrieking, screaming, for air gagging panic chick supreme edition on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It is truly something I cannot control, my cockroach phobia. I just can’t. I even have problems with dead cockroaches (but don’t tell anyone).

From the moment I notice that I am sharing my space with one of those ugly wiggly creatures with their antennas and legs and wings and more legs and more wings I simply lose my self control, composure, common sense and marbles. All of them, sometimes with painful consequences. Take last night. Thanks to one of those filthy, nasty monsters, my right hand is busted.

Tragedy struck when one of my cats came running in, chasing something I immediately recognized as one of the beast-I-detest-so-very-much. I, at said moment, was standing at the door which leads to balcony when cat & roach came running in.

In an attempt to get away from the Monster of all Monsters I turned around and ran away at high speed. I unfortunately forgot about the couch, went airborne, ninja chopped my way thought the empty void and landed on the coffee table (which is made of solid wood).

The events have left my right hand swollen and blue and rather painful – sprained but not broken (thanks god).

My Better Half found it intensely entertaining how I, while almost passing out because of the pain, ordered him to go to the lounge to “find and kill the sonofabitch, now!”.

It does not end here.

While we were lying in bed, me with my hand on ice, I heard something suspicious on the bamboo roller blinds above our heads. It was as if something with many legs and many antennas and many wings was crawling up there.

According to Boyfriend Dearest it was just the wind. “Stop worrying and go back to sleep,” I was told after he closed the windows. I am a Taurean, thus stubborn (I have to reluctantly admit), thus I did not trust the situation when the noise continued.

If he could please have a look, I asked.

To keep a long story short: the noise I heard had come from a *MASSIVE* cockroach the size of a small house. Better Half eventually, after a short chase through the bedroom which led him under the bed, found and killed the culprit. I in the meantime had sought refuge in the bathroom, far away from the Threat.

Where does this story go? Nowhere really. Well, apart from the fact that this story has probably travelled all the way to Better Half’s office and his favorite local pub and the ladies of his favourite lunch place and beyond 🙂


Posted by on November 16, 2010 in The World of Mir


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A freelancer’s pet hates

Confession of the day

“Dear Miriam. We have received your invoice, but we noticed a couple of discrepancies and wondered if you could re-issue it for payment ASAP.”

This is how an email by one of my clients – a South African financial agency – started. It was a reply to my email asking when they’d pay me.

YOu have to understand that chasing payments and clients is one of the things freelance writers – or any freelancer, I suppose – loathe.

It is stressful, it is time consuming, and it is annoying as hell. Most of us have 100 other things we’d rather do and chasing invoices is not one of them. Besides, it is frustrating that clients expect you to meet deadlines at all cost (if you miss them, you risk losing that particular client, thus par of your income), while most of them do not particularly seem to care a great deal about meeting their deadline: paying what they owe their  freelance writers and photographers!

A leading construction company for instance (yes, the one that was in charge of Cape Town Stadium) told me again last week “You will be paid at the end of this week, promise”. I checked my bank account 5 minutes ago: Nothing, nada, niks.

The Portuguese newspaper Publico is another fantastic example of how clients mistreat their freelancers.  Publico owes me money from last year November.  That is right: last year November (2009!!). It is October 2010 now. I have sent about a gazillion emails and every time they come up with some kind of a lousy excuse that makes my skin crawl. I am fed up and am not even bothered being nice to them any longer. My patience and sense of humor flew out the window a very long time ago, I guess. I can therefore say that Publico is the worst publication to work for as a freelancer. Do not work for them! Ever! Stay away, regardless ofthe fact they pay in Euros. I repeat: If you are a freelance writer or photographer and Publico asks you to do work for them: REFUSE and run for the hills! It is *NOT* worth it, trust me.

Back to my South African financial client and their email. Clients have complained about invoices before, despite the fact they okayed my rates, quote, and time spent on the project. I therefore feared the worst.

Last year for instance, I did some PR work for a Dutch developer who needed exposure for his eco-estate to-be. As promised, my monthly invoices always were provided with a detailed break down of the hours spent on his project – including a breakdown of the media exposure he received.

All went well until the third month.

“You did not do this or that, we did this and that,” he blatantly told me. While I was able to show him that I was the person responsible for the said activity (and positive outcome, namely an interview in a national South African newspaper) he kept his foot down. Very annoying and shitty situation, as what do you do in this situation? Do you keep your foot down, piss off the client and risk a) not getting paid all and b) losing your precious retainer? I bowed and rewrote my invoice, and then I fired him myself.

Last year another company – an add agency in Cape Town this time – hired me to do some copy writing. Beforehand, they asked me how long I thought I needed for then job. “Between ten and fifteen hours, but more towards ten”, I told them. I was given the go ahead, under the condition I’d let them know by hour number ten how far I was and how much time I needed to complete the project.

And so I did, and they gave me the go-ahead. The total number of hours came down to thirteen. Well, fourteen, but I gave them a discount. This was met by moaning and complaining. So again: what do you do? Keep your foot down? Risk not being paid at all? Risk not working for them ever again?

Back to my South African financial client and their email.

“Here we go again,” I thought to myself, rolling my eyes before reading a bit further.

“According to my calculations, the daily stories should be: Wednesday – XXX words @ RX p/w & 1 picture should be RXXXXX  (you have RXXX). Also the overall total, according to my calculations is RXXXXX (you have RXXX).”

In other words: It was me who made a mistake and was about to sell myself short. The client noticed this. Instead of keeping it to herself, she notified me.

It has been a first, really. And I am grateful. If only more clients would treat their freelancers with the same respect, they’d be getting even more for what they bargained.


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Super typhoon Megi & Zuma’s fat cat nephew

News of the day

Earlier this year, Mother Nature struck with a merciless vengeance in Pakistan. Monster floods killed over 1500 people, and displaced millions. In addition, millions of hectares of crops were washed away, plunging the country in a food crisis of note. Villages were submerged, roads and bridges were destroyed, and thousands of flood victims  were subjected to disease.  A genuine human tragedy which will be felt for the years to come.

While Pakistan is trying to overcome the destruction that happened earlier this year, the Philippines have been crushed by Megi (local name: Juan). With wind speeds of 140 miles per hour, this super typhoon struck land early this morning. It is uncertain how much damage Megi has caused, but according to the authorities in the Phlippines it is the strongest typhoon in four years.

Tweet of the day

@GlendaN: Why does fat Zuma nephew need 19 cars? In SA, where half the population goes to bed hungry. And this is OK? No class, pure trash.
Khulubuse Zuma, one of the nephews of South African president Jacob Zuma, has lost thousands of rands due to a television con. Some would call this a classic case of karma in the first degree. Earlier this year, the media reported how Khulubuse and his business partner – the grandson of Nelson Mandela Zondwa- chronically failed to pay their mine workers. Both men stear  Aurora Empowerment Systems, which last year took over Pamodzi Gold’s two liquidated mines.
As we speak, most of the 2000-odd mine workers have not received a salary for the past eight months. “We can;t afford to pay them”, is the excuse. After the take over, Aurora got into financial trouble due to miscalculations. However, in the meantime Khulubuse is splashing around money like there is no tomorrow.
R72.000. That was for instance the total bill of a party thrown by Zuma’s nephew a few months ago. According to recent reports, Khulubuse is the proud owner of 19 luxury cars. Not Polos, Citi Golfs and old bashed up beetles but Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Benzes. In the meantime, his employees are waiting to be paid. Another day in South Africa. I truly love this country like if it were my own, but it is stories like these that simply piss me off. I wish karma would have been a bit nastier.

Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Stuff that Happens in the News


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U2 touring South Africa & Zulu baby brides

Rumour of the day

U2, the best band of all times and of the universe and beyond, is coming to South Africa for a series of concerts. Well, that is what is being whispered on Twitter. Big Concerts has not confirmed anything so far, and is keeping its lips sealed. It is therefore a tad early to jump for joy.

The last time the guys of U2 gave a concert in South Africa was somewhere in the 1990s, which – frankly – has been a while. Since then Bono and his band have skipped South Africa during their world tours. The non-existence of a suitable concert venue has been blamed for this. Well, South Africa has 11 top-notch, world class stadiums now, so that excuse will no longer fly, I guess.

As far as the rumours go: more and more people have come forward with very promising messages:

* Friend 1 (Facebook) – No rumour. Have a mate who does the fences and entrance control at the events and he has been booked for U2!!!!!!!!!

* Friend 2 (twitter): Just confirmed from an independent source, who says Feb 2011.

* Friend 3(Facebook): yes the concert is in feb tickets go on sale 23 oct

Tweet of the day

GlendaN: Hear King Goodwill introduced the baby to the legislature today. She’s the elusive Swazi bride, apparently. Her parents are ‘excited’.
In general, people should respect someone’s culture. If you go to a Mosque rather than a church: fine. If you per definition won’t eat veal in a cream sauce: fine. If you slaughter a cow during weddings and other festivities: fine. If you like to have several wives instead of one partner: fine.
But some times thing go a bit too far. Take King Goodwill from Zululand, for instance. At the age of 55 the traditional Monarch, who has half a dozen of wives already, will be tying the knot a 14-year old girl child from Swaziland. Beg your pardon, you must have misunderstood! You surely meant fourty? No Zola Mafu just reached the tender of fourteen, as in “one – four”. Her parents have said to be excited. Sick bastards. How can you be happy thinking of your baby girl, because that is what Zola is, lying in bed with a 55-year old creep with peadophilic tendencies? The reason for their happiness is probably of a financial matter. I am sure that the lobola will be substantial and since Swaziland is one of the poorest countries in the world … I just wonder what this poor girl must think and feel, as I doubt whether she has a genuine choice. How can a child that young say no to both her parents and a King?
Before you say: hey you whitey, you do not understand. This is Zulu culture and therefore you as a European are not allowed to judge. I agree: It is their culture, alright. But a culture – whether black, white or purple – can never ever be used as an excuse to condone a criminal act. Because that is what this is: a crime.
Like in most parts of the world, adults in South Africa having sexual relations with people at young as Zola is a crime – whether she agrees to having sex with him or not (marriage will lead to sex, period). Why? This is to protect the child. Children often have not the strength to say ‘no’ to adults, whom they often perceive as superior.
Besides: if I am locked up for having sex with a 14 year old (only the thought makes me cringe), why is King Goodwill given the go ahead?
“Because it is his culture,” the reply would be. “It has bene like this for the past centuries”.  Well, my reply would be that cultures need to move on sometimes. Otherwise witch burning in Europe and throwing Christians for the lions in Rome would still be a thing of the present.

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Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Stuff that Happens in the News


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Morphine, Peace Prize & the Transkei

News of the day:

A friend of mine has returned home with her beautiful 10-month old daughter, whom she adopted last week. They might have met only 8 days ago, mother and daughter seem to be head over heels in love with each other and inseparable. The way this little girl who was abandoned over half a year ago, reducing her chances to a future, looks at her mom is simply indescribably beautiful and heart warming.

Tweets of the day:

@DailyMaverick: Codeine’s bad rep: should it be banned? Apparently codeine infused pain killers are bad for you, and may even be fatal. Although the number of fatalities is quite low, I have decided to ditch my stash of Myprodols. The thought of morphine in my body simply does not appeal to me.

@BreakingNews: Wife Nobel Peace Prize winner says police forcing her to leave Beijing:
The reports come a few hours after Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who was detained in December 2008 his participation with the Charter 08. Signed by hundreds of Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists, the manifesto calls for political reforms, democratisation, freedom of the press and speech in China.  In June 2009 Xiaobo was arrested and charged with inciting subversion of state power, and thrown in jail for 11 years.

Photo of the day:

My photo of the day was taken in the Transkei last month during a media trip organised by Fair Trade Tourism South Africa. The girl on the picture lives near the Bulungula Lodge, by far one of my favourite spots along the Eastern Cape wild coast. It is one of the most powerful portraits I have ever shot. For more images of the Transkei and South Africa, please click here.


Photo: Miriam Mannak


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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Uncategorized


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