I want to dig a bit deeper into yesterday’s post in which photographer Clay Stang talked about his transition into a new market. Although Clay makes many pertinent self-reflections (learning humility for eg.), one of the most interesting things he mentioned was how hard it was for him to get validation from his local (Canadian) market, even after having success away (New York). This phenomenon is common in Canada and is referred to as Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Frank Falcone is the President and Creative Director at Guru Studio and offered the following perspective in response to Clay’s post:
Great observations Clay. I can empathize. My first directing gig at 23 was out of Grey NY and my company’s first gig was a pan Latin American campaign for Hershey’s out of Ogilvy Mexico City.
I often feel totally shut out of the Toronto market despite the fact most of our work is for London NY + Chicago. It’s bizarre but uniquely Canadian phenomenon. To not reward your own.
The tall poppies syndrome.
“We’re going international with this one” is oft heard rallying cry of those bent on spending their most substantial budgets outside of our own borders. Are the motives to go international more nefarious? “Client jollies” is what the UK producers call them. Where are the cost consultants when you need them! Ok that’s being cynical. :)
It may well be that we are a small market and the AD’s are choosy. It’s certainly a nice sentiment. But you cannot deny that Toronto leads the nation in their possession of that crippling “outward gaze”. The one that blindly passes over local talent in favour of ’superior international talent’. It’s the Canadian way. We can’t POSSIBLY be good enough!
I’ve often wondered if I would be busier in the Toronto market if I moved to NY.
Because it’s fun and it’s in another medium (animation- hurray!) lets look at some of Frank’s work. Here’s Guru Studio’s current Demo reel:
Let’s turn to Wikipedia for some context on Tall Poppy Syndrome:
Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is a pejorative term used in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.
Critics of the tall poppy syndrome sometimes declare that the United States is relatively free of “tall poppy” attitudes. Americans are thought to appreciate the successful, seeing them as an example to admire and attempt to emulate. In the cultures of the UK and Commonwealth nations, such commentators assert, many resent success of their fellows.
There are two things here: cutting down your compatriots and the tendency to favour those from away.
I can think of several photographers who struggle with different versions of TPS-related injuries.
Shooter A lives here, has a lot of success in the US but can’t seem to get anything of substance in Toronto. Photographer B left Canada many years ago and is top of his game in America. Recently, he’s turned his attention back to Canada and really wants to have success “back at home” too, oddly, it’s been a bit of a struggle. And I know reps who have serious concerns that once their Canadian shooters achieve major success here, they will leave for the US.
As I am loath to point out too often, there are many many different reasons that you get the job. The suitability of your photography is not always the only determining factor. What a shame though that it has to go deeper into our own national psyche and the trouble we have envisioning ourselves as good enough.
So I want to know: Is America free of TPS?