“I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” The Passer says as she looks at the Schedule for the Shoot. “I’m just not making enough money here.”
“Yeah, I know.” I say, just as I have said every time I have worked with this Passer for the past four years. “There’s got to be a better way to make a living than this.”
The end of December is the doldrums of the Assembly Line Portrait business. Most Companies lay off everyone until after the first of the year. Some don’t start working again until February. Some never start work again. We usually have a meeting where we are told to stop doing this and that and start doing this and that. It’s always a good chance to see who has bailed out over the winter break and how many of die hards like myself are left around.
This is the time of year I like to have long fantasies about other paths I could have taken, other lives I could be living, or even pause for a moment and think about the life lines where I have already died. I have few real regrets, what is the point? Until someone invents the Wayback Machine, regrets are just kind of silly. I am not dead yet, but there are times that I feel like George Bailey and think it wouldn’t make much difference if I had never been born.
When I a kid I had this idea of becoming a street performer-only problem is that I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas-not a town known for it’s lively street performer scene. So in order to do what I wanted to do, I would need to move to London, or New Orleans, or Venice Beach. I suppose I still could, except that I never really got past the Three Ball patterns in juggling and my Magic is not as magical as it could be. I never really mastered the Didgeridoo, either-though I still give it a shot once in a while.
The fact of the matter is that I am getting a bit long in the tooth to still be thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. Get a haircut and get a real job. A bit too old to run off and join the circus as well. There is always the lotto to fall back on.
When I run into another Assembly Line Portrait Photographer, we share all our war stories. We talk about the best Shoots, the Worst shoots, the funny people, the sad people, and in about an hour, we have pretty much said all there is to say. We meet people who used to be Assembly Line Portrait Photographers, and we talk to them for a few minutes and move on to the next Subject.
One of the questions people ask me: Is this what you do for a living? Well, yes. This is it. Some of the other photographers do work on the side. Do portrait in people’s homes, or with their horses, or do their own little shoots of one kind or another. I have done a couple of shoots on my own, but I was not greatly pleased with the results.
One of my favorite depressing songs is A Long December by the Counting Crows-
It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better that the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
In short, it’s much like Igor said in Young Frankenstein. It cold be worse, it could be raining.
This is the time of year that I look at the Want Ads and I find that jobs in the wage range I am seeking are all for things like RNs, System Engineers, and Electrical Engineers. Not to mention a few dozen other jobs titles I have no idea whatsoever about. But that is all well and good, I’m not all that interested in working for anyone else anyway. But I do need to look, just in case one of those dream jobs pops up.
It’s also the time of year I bang out a couple of new short stories and fiddle with them while I think about where I might want to send them. I also tend to spend a day or two working on the outline of a new novel and maybe think about some nonfiction bit of work I could bang out in a couple of weeks. The work is interesting, and there is something fulfilling about crafting a bit of writing and feeling that it has, at last, reached a level of competency.
I am doing a bit of cooking. I am catching up on a number of TV Shows. I am eating a number of free meals as my birthday is close at hand. I am reading a few books. Life is pretty good and I am trying to feel grateful for all that I have.
Maybe I won’t run away after all. Not just yet anyway.