“I don’t have a Shoot for next week.” I say to the Supervisor who has sat around watching me take portraits for a couple of hours.
“We’ve got about 17 photographers without a Shoot next week.” He says with a small shrug.
“And The Company still doesn’t think we need to change the way we book accounts?” I say as I have said more than once before.
“The PreSellers are Untouchable.” He says with some resignation. “That is never going to change.”
Being an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer is not like having a real job. It’s more like being in a lottery where your number might pop up and you get to work, or it might not and you get to sit around the house for a few weeks pondering the meaning of it all. This is a lot more depressing than it once was. I am pretty much at the end of the line as far Assembly Line Portraits go and I have few enough other skills that anyone would pay for.
Going to Monster and inputting Portrait Photographer gets zero results. Careerbuilder gets the same no results. Indeed brings up a few jobs with an amusement park theme and one or two of the usual suspects of Assembly Line Portraits that I have already been there and done that. Not to mention that just about any portrait photographer job listing I have seen over the past couple of years wants to pay $8 an hour.
This means dipping once again into Unemployment-which is never a good thing, but has been a bit more of a bother lately. They have refused to pay me and when I call and talk to them, they say that I have not been denied Unemployment Benefits, they are just not going to pay me until they confirm this or that. I have to give them a call again next week and hope for the best.
I have always thought of myself as a bit of an Antiques Dealer and I used to setup at a local flea market and make a couple of hundred bucks on a good weekend. But I don’t have enough stuff to bother with anymore-and really, I never made enough for it to be worth the hassle. I moved to eBay and had some small success there-but again I never seemed to have enough of the items that people actually buy and too much of the kind of stuff that everyone else is selling for .99 cents with free shipping. Watching reruns of Storage Wars makes me want to run out and spend what little money I do have gambling on the contents of an abandoned storage unit-hey, those guys make thousands every week!
During these slow times I also tend to let my thoughts wander to getting around to writing that Book, Screenplay, or even a couple of Short Stories. One of my old Company buddies asks from time to time if I am writing anything and I say no, I just blog. So I spend a few minutes wondering if this little block of time should be spent working on some of my writing. But real writing is not a pick it up when you feel like it kind of activity. You should always have something in the works, several somethings in fact. And when I really get into banging out that new novel, well, then it is time to get back to work.
I have done my own Shoots once or twice, but I am not good at getting new accounts. I am working my way through a couple of books on marketing and booking your service business, but I tend to lose a bit of interest when they recommend things like becoming a circuit speaker to promote your business. I never really wanted to be Tony Robbins, but the point is to get out there and actually meet people who might want to have a portrait taken.
I still like taking portraits. I like changing the lighting and the backgrounds. I like flowing through the Standard Set and seeing the portraits pop up on the screen. I have always liked the work, but I have never like too many critics. The Company has upped the Your Pictures Suck Quota by several factors over the past couple of years. We have surveys that are basically Complaint Forms which we are asked to hand out to every Shoot Coordinator. We have The Plant ticking off check marks for every Defect they can find. And we have the Supervisors nitpicking over our images using their own judgement about what is good and what is bad.
One of the few good things about being an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer is that you don’t have to put up with the bullshit of having some idiot standing over your shoulder telling you what to do. With the modern age of digital images the morons no longer have to shuffle through physical proofs or inconvenience themselves by going to The Office to look at the Work. Now all of our images are just a click away. So I get the usual comments from my critics every review and I am both offended and baffled by what these fellows have to say. It takes a strong moral fiber not to shoot back a reply email with the words ‘and the horse you rode in on‘ as part of the body.
Recently the Home Office sent out an email showing us what kinds of portraits they want us to be doing. Oh-My-God. Not only where these pictures I would not take, they were images I would be embarrassed to show to anyone. This is a major problem. The Company is heading down the wrong path as hard as it can-and I either have to join them or figure out how to book my own Shoots. At least it helped explain why I get so many negative reviews.
The last little critique of my work was especially offensive as it featured portraits from the Old Folks Home, where many of the Subjects were not all there and none of them really looked their best.
This is always a discouraging time of the year. No work. No money. And sure as anything when they do call me back to work it will be in Tulsa or Houston or someplace else several hundred miles away when I don’t have enough money to cover travel costs.
Damn. When’s the next Storage Auction, anyway?