Some Days a Diamond, Some Days a Stone

“They bought a little, but they would have bought more if they had something to buy.” The Old Timer PC says with her hands on her hips.  “You should have done better with them.”

“That was the best I could do with what I had to work with.” I say.

“That’s bull.” She says and gives me her Thousand Yard Stare-which is a pretty good one that makes my cheeks flush. “I don’t know what your doing here.”

“Hmm.” Is all the comeback I can manage.

Working with the Old Timers is a duel edged sword.  They are some of the best Passers and they usually get the best accounts-which means I don’t see them very often any more.  It also means that they are used to making real money every day, hitting the top level of the sales commission, and running a high sales average.  Since I do ok on the money front, but seldom great any more, the Old Timer Passers feel free to yell at me. These Top Dog Passers expect better than ok, they expect to be the very best and make the most money possible.  And when that doesn’t happen, it is never, ever their fault.

I have had my worst year ever at this Company and one of my worst years ever over all.  The money is about half of what it was two years ago.  This makes for a less than happy and enthusiastic Photographer.  So having the Top Dog Passer tell me my pictures sucks actually bothers me a bit.  In my defense, there is almost always one or two groups that you just can’t take good portraits of.  These are usually brats and slightly insane and total deaf old people.  My patience isn’t what it used to be, and I tend to run them through the mill and get them out of my room as quickly as possible.  As a general rule, if the portraits look like shit, there’s a pretty good reason and dragging them back in for more portraits seldom helps much.

But the Old Timers are often big on the whole retake thing, and this is usually a good thing, as it means they might actually buy something-if they like the portraits well enough.  My usual experience is Mom walking in and say something like We don’t have any good portraits, so we will buy if they are any good.  What this means is my children are little shits that won’t stand still for a tenth of a second so good luck getting any money out of us.  The Passers know this, the Old Timers have done this long enough to have seen all the tricks, but they still have to have someone to blame for the Nonbuyers-and that someone is The Photographer.

Since I haven’t worked with this Passer for about a year or so, she said that she thought I looked different, but she couldn’t say what exactly.  What she saw was my weariness and general lack of interest in what has been a pretty bad year.  After banging your head against a brick wall long enough you just stop trying to break it down.  My depression and overall demoralization is starting shine through.  But the Old Timer Passer has had a normal year for her, which means she made at least twice what I made this year.  It really helps when you can pick your own schedules.

So as the year winds down I find myself hating the job.  Setting up the studio feels like much more work than it did just a couple of weeks ago.  The usual wise cracks of the Subjects piss me off, the usual stupid comments make me want to slap them.  I don’t want to see any more brats-just as I never want to see more than one two year old in a day.  I also get tied of yelling at old people who have lost most of their hearing and don’t want to have their hearing aids show in the portraits.  The result is a bit of yelling and a lot of pantomime.  Normal everyday stuff, but when I am tired and it all seems pretty damned pointless, I just don’t find this stuff amusing any more.

So I take portraits-the Standard Set with the occasional variation.  I play around with the backgrounds.  I adjust the lighting.  I do the occasional under exposure.  I mold the shape of the background light, add a kicker light, try a softbox instead of an umbrella.  But none of that matters when the Subjects won’t d what you tell them to do.  When people want to talk or eat while your taking their portrait.  When they won’t stand still, won’t stand in the correct place, won’t smile, won’t look in the right direction.  Yes, that is the job, capturing those rare moments when they do look the way they are supposed to look.  But for some Subjects, that moment never comes.  The Old Time Passers are just like the Subjects themselves, they expect some kind of miricle that will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

And the time was that I could pull it off nine times out of ten.  But the cards are stacked against me now.  I have had too many bad accounts, where it didn’t matter what the photos looked like, who the Passer was, who the Photographer was.  Accounts that have to be shot as they have been booked, but accounts that will not make anyone any money.  Without desire, the technical details of lighting, backgrounds, camera work, mean nothing.  And even with desire, an unwilling Subject will never take a great portrait.

So I need a couple of weeks here at the end of the year to get away from The Company and Passers, and it’s Subjects.

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