“Well, looks like you have a lot of experience in this field.” The Man says and then shrugs. “But I don’t pay too much attention to resumes. I’ve got about 90 jobs on my resume. I’ve worked everywhere you worked and many more places.”
“Hmm.” I say and can think of at least two places on my resume that he has likely never heard of, let alone worked at. “So what’s the pay like here?”
“This is a fun place to work. Very casual. But this is a starting position-we’ll give you a trail run and see how things go. If everything works out you’ll get to run the place on my days off and in the mornings. I don’t like mornings.”
“And the pay?”
“Eight dollars an hour. Part time.”
My most recent day of work at The Assembly Line Portrait Company paid me about $30 dollars an hour. It pays enough travel expenses to cover my gas. I have insurance and there is a 401K, in the unlikely event that I ever have enough money to put anything into it.
I like making $40-$60 thousand dollars a year-if I could get my own company up and running I could make a lot more than that-but I am not good at that whole marketing thing. I don’t know how to get accounts. But I do know that I can’t get by on the $14-$16 thousand dollars that most of the shops in the Malls pay a year.
I like my work, what I don’t like is sitting at home and not making any money. Or worse, working and not making any money. This has been my worst year at The Company-there is no work and no money. So I am looking for another Company. The trouble now is that I have pretty much worked my through most of the better companies and I’m now back at the bottom rug as they are the only ones that will hire me.
I have taken Assembly Line Portraits in malls before, but it was always a traveling company-never one of the permanent shops with their thick black books filled with glossy 8x10s. Making just over the minimum wage is never a good thing for anyone over 16-and in a job where No Experience Necessary is often part of the ad-real experience doesn’t matter much.
Real Portrait Studios seldom run ads and aren’t looking for Button Pushers like me when they do. I often think that maybe I should study up on Wedding Photography and give that a shot-but I have always had mixed feelings about the whole thing.
Looking for a new job is always more work and more rejection that I like to deal with. Starting my own business is even worse. So I stay where I am with the occasional chance to make some real money vs the grantee of making a little anywhere else.
Taking Assembly Line Portraits is often fun-most people don’t like having a portrait taken, but they do it anyway. Some look good, some look bad, some are nice and some are mean. In the end it all evens out and at the end of the day all that matters is the money. It’s work that makes me happy, for the most part, and just when I think I have that perfect company lined up-something happens and it’s not so perfect anymore.
It’s that whole path of least resistance thing. I could go on and do this or that and maybe it would be better-but maybe not. So rather than try yet one more new thing, I just stay where I am. I am working on some stock photos, writing a bit on a short story or two, fiddling around with that novel, and wasting rather a lot of time playing a video game called Fate.
My portraits are better than they have ever been, but the economy pretty bad. It’s a bit demoralizing when people walk in the door and say they aren’t going to buy anything. But that is the business model-the old bait and switch-it really works best when the customer comes in with the idea that they want to buy something.
My job is pretty much the same, whether they buy or not, I still have to take the portraits. I still have to do the break downs. Part of the old hardwired training is that The Photographer is in charge and that you MUST taken all the portraits required for a good sale. It may not be a good sale, but you at least have to give the Passer something to show.
So I keep on pushing that button and hoping that things will pick up. If you need a fast portrait photographer, and are willing to pay, I’m always looking for new opportunities.