“I hear another one of our photographers quit.” I say to my Supervisor during one of the slow points in the day.
“Yeah.” The Supervisor says and shakes his head. “He’s gone. I had to go and pick up his studio and he wanted to talk with me, but I had nothing to say to him. He doesn’t work for us anymore, I don’t have to pretend I like him.”
The Old Company was a solid culture of favoritism and hostility from Management. If you were on the good side of your Manager, then you had good Shoots to work, good people to work with, and most important-you made money. If you were on the Manager’s shit list, you worked a lot of ghetto churches with the worst sellers and made no money.
The good news is that the Old Company is dead. The bad news is that the New Company has left all of the old Managers in manager positions. I’ve worked a handful of Shoots using the New Company systems and I have only met one New Company drone-she said I needed to be more flexible. Aside of a few emails blasts, I have had almost no contact with anyone from the New Company.
I turned in my two week notice at one Assembly Line Portrait Company and my Manager put on a shocked face and said ‘This is the first I’ve heard of this.’ Did he really think I would call him up and tell him, hey, I’m busy looking for another job, but I would like you to keep me working full schedules until I find something better. I can figure out how long I would be working after that. It never ceases to amaze me that people who are screwing you over at every opportunity are shocked when you don’t show undying loyalty to them.
A number of people from The Old Company worked there for twenty or thirty years and I myself worked there for six years. That’s the longest I ever worked for any Assembly Line Portrait Company. The Old Timers are having a hard time adjusting, people who have spent decades learning to sell portraits or take portraits don’t like the idea of doing twice the work for half the pay in a Shoot-n-Show setup. I’m not a Passer and most Passers are not Photographers. The New Company is slowly realizing that the bulk of the Old Company leftovers are unwilling to change.
I was working at a High School, taking composite photos for a large marching band. A few of us were talking about jobs we hated and things we would like to change about the jobs we didn’t hate but didn’t love either. One kid stepped forward and said that he loved his job-he worked for Chick-fil-a. He was a real crusader who took great pride in the Chick-fil-a culture and he liked having Sundays off. Of course, he was still a High School student and didn’t have to support himself on what the good people of Chick-fil-a were paying him.
I worked with another Old Timer like myself last week. She was in her fifties and had worked for a dozen other Assembly Line Portrait Companies. She’s done in store promotions, pet photos, and church directory work. She’s an old school Passer who runs good numbers and doesn’t always do it the way the New Company would like. She doesn’t always tell them every possible option and closes the sale when they agree to buy something.
The New Company is so obsessed with the idea of customer service that they don’t actually want us to have any customers. They don’t care if they buy anything, just so long as they are happy. And if the New Company paid me a flat daily rate to go and take portraits, I wouldn’t care either. Working for commission doesn’t make for great customer service, it makes for pissed off people that want to kill every cheap bastard that doesn’t buy something.
And so it always goes. Every Company has a few good points, travel to interesting places-good people to work with-good equipment to work with-new skills to develop and use. But they almost all had the same two bad points, idiots in management and piss poor pay. The one or two places where I did like the Boss, they had no benefits. The place that had benefits and paid for me and the Wife to travel all over the country was run my idiots and paid on the average-never a good thing.
There are some Companies that don’t believe in ever firing anyone. They will starve you out by giving you one week’s worth of work a month, but they won’t man up and Donald Trump you. And so I quit all but one or two of the Assembly Line Portrait jobs I’ve had. I have to admit that I was a bit blindsided when I was fired, because, hey, I’m a GREAT portrait photographer. Just ask me and I’ll tell you. By the same token I’m always shocked when some Assembly Line Portrait Company doesn’t want to hire me. I’m not so surprised when a Real Portrait Studio won’t hire me, but I still give it a shot once in a while.
I’ve been halfheartedly looking for a new job for the past five years or so, but change is hard and there were always one or two great weeks here and there that would make me think things would get better soon. Now I have no such illusions, I’ve worked for these bastards at The New Company before.