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It's Official. I'm no longer full time.


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#1 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 06 2008 - 12:10 AM

I'm reminded of the "Sign of the Times" segment on Nightline. After 25+ years of experience and background, two degrees, teaching hundreds of classes, probably millions of photos and so on, the ship has now officially sailed. The hobbyists (the ones who think they are Pros) have won and I am relieved, relaxed, but also a bit resentful. For the first time in my life (and I mean that more than you can imagine), photography is now officially a sideline. I have finally accepted the reality that Photography is barely viable as a profession. At least it has become that way in the last few years. Still, I will probably always do some photography, particularly for clients I enjoy working with.

I am now officially working full-time as Operations Manager for one of my old photo clients. It is nice to be in a growing field rather than a dying one. Here's irony for you. One of the employees is also a photographer who has given up on the profession (no longer full-time anyway) and who I've known for over 25 years. We worked at the same camera store nearly 30 years ago, and now I'm her boss.

What do I do? I sell tea. As a friend of mine said, "Tea is Good", which pretty much sums it up. It's a real contrast to photography, which had become rather annoying. I'm in charge of employees and general operations at theteatable.com. Hopefully Ron and Parker don't mind the shameless plug. The bottom line is, I enjoy it and I like having a somewhat stable life for the first time in years.

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#2 of 37 Scott Merryfield

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Posted July 06 2008 - 01:52 AM

Good luck in your new endeavor, John. From your previous writings here, I know you have struggled with the changes in the industry. Hopefully you have found something that you can flourish with. It sounds like you are happy with the move, which is the most important thing.

#3 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 07 2008 - 04:12 PM

Thanks Scott. It's interesting how you phrased that. My struggles with the "industry" are that this is not perceived as a profession anymore. People like Annie Liebovitz will continue to make five figures for a shoot and Denis Regie will continue to make millions on his seminars. In fact, he will probably do even better off the steady flow of hobbyists with dreams of going pro. The problem is, for most working pros in the real world, people expect half day shoots for $100. That is fine for those who are just looking to buy another piece of equipment, but it won't pay the bills.

I have lunch once a month with four people. A year ago we were all full time photographers and every one of us had been for at least 15 years. Now, only one still is, and I'm not sure she's exactly thriving. I'm reminded of something that photographer's husband told me recently. He is a musician and he had held some kind of seminar when a woman came up to him and asked how much the instruments he played cost. These are all custom, hand made acoustic instruments. He went through several of them and when he was done, she pointed at one which cost about $1,500 and said, in all seriousness, "I want one of those, but I only want to pay $50. Where can I get it for that?" Maybe the analogy makes sense, and maybe it doesn't.

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#4 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted July 08 2008 - 01:20 AM

John, sorry to hear of your struggles. I know you and I have vastly different viewpoints on photography but I still sympathize with you and those in your (now ex) line of work who have struggled with the changes that the digital age has wrought.

It's not just photography, as you well know. I used to work in a company that made electronic flow controllers, and the simplest way to describe those are automatons that replace real people in factories. It sucks when you think about it but the world moves on with or without you.

And I'm not shocked at the story about the instruments, it's the walmartization of the world and frankly, the internet has helped many of us become insane bargain hunters, tho clearly there is a huge gap between getting cheap consumer goods and needing to invest in professional quality gear that most lay people won't understand or even appreciate.

Best of luck in your new career, and may you find in photography as a sideline some kind of silver lining to not being full time. Freed from the need to keep that income coming in, maybe it will allow you to see a different side of the revolution...

"Sam, you are the biggest nutter we have here."

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#5 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted July 08 2008 - 02:51 AM

Also, would this be a bad time to ask for some free tea samples? Posted Image Posted Image

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#6 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 08 2008 - 03:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
maybe it will allow you to see a different side of the revolution...
I've never seen anyone talk to romantically about wires and circuits. I know I have expressed annoyance toward digital. Actually, it's not digital I have ever been frustrated with, but being forced by clients to live with its often unacceptable limitations because they insist on it rather then shooting film when applicable.

I have to keep reminding people that when the first electronic imaging equipment was invented (called "Still Video" at the time, which looks so amusing now), I worked for the company that invented it and I was THE go-to guy regarding it. I traveled all over the country providing education on it. I went everywhere, NASA, Apple Computer, I even spent several hours with the current President photographing him with various people. That is in no way to imply any affiliation. I was just doing my job. I thought it was a great thing. It never occurred to me it would virtually kill photography as an actual profession.

So Sam, I have this impression. In essence, by putting so much importance on circuits, you also seem to be saying you wouldn't be capable of doing this without the gadgets. I'm reminded of another HTFer who said a few years ago about the advent of DV and inexpensive editing and mastering software, that "Now anyone can be a talented filmmaker". Yes, I practically took offense at that. It's the word Talented that is the problem. The cheap equipment amkes it easy to try, but it does not make anyone talented. People keep agreeing with that, but their actions and words show they really do believe hardware is talent.

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#7 of 37 Walter Kittel

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Posted July 08 2008 - 03:22 AM

Just stumbled on this thread. Good luck in you present endeavors, John.

I like the musician anecdote, in my previous role as a technician I would encounter people who wished for me to impart 10 years of experience to them in an hour.

- Walter.
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#8 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 08 2008 - 03:30 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walter Kittel
I would encounter people who wished for me to impart 10 years of experience to them in an hour.

- Walter.
Ain't that the truth. Plus, for me anyway, they'd want it because they wanted to take business away from me.

Anyway Sam, you can have up to 5 free samples with any order, so stop being so cheap. If you order something and put a hello to me in the special comments, I'll throw a little of one of my favorite teas for you. Some of them get kind of expensive, but I'll do it since you're such a good bud. Posted Image

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

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#9 of 37 Scott Merryfield

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Posted July 08 2008 - 04:11 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice
I'm reminded of something that photographer's husband told me recently. He is a musician and he had held some kind of seminar when a woman came up to him and asked how much the instruments he played cost. These are all custom, hand made acoustic instruments. He went through several of them and when he was done, she pointed at one which cost about $1,500 and said, in all seriousness, "I want one of those, but I only want to pay $50. Where can I get it for that?" Maybe the analogy makes sense, and maybe it doesn't.

The analogy does make sense, John. In each case, a novice thinks that the better tool will suddenly turn that person into an artist. That, of course, couldn't be further from the truth.

#10 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted July 08 2008 - 06:42 AM

Quote:
I've never seen anyone talk to romantically about wires and circuits.

Egads not the hardware, its the software and people that matters! And the software has changed so that practically anyone can use a digital device, not just those of us who charted our careers around computers! Maybe not with the mastery of someone who does it as a career but more than I could have seen when I was just starting, thats for sure.

And technically I was in exactly that same boat with you, my future was envisioned around that seemigly assured future where those willing to read an infinite amount of arcane manuals and sub-human code were the ones who really knew how to make these silicon beasts tick, yet the world had other plans. Rather than lamenting the influx of 'noobs' I embraced it and revel in it. What can I say, I'm a 21st century digital boy, we roll with it. =)

Quote:
In essence, by putting so much importance on circuits, you also seem to be saying you wouldn't be capable of doing this without the gadgets.

No, it's more than gadgets. Still photography just happens to be the one area where this poor shlub happens to have some appreciation. Not talent. Not artistry. But it's one thing that makes me happy. I shoot for myself and myself alone and I'm not blind to the mess of things that the inexpensive gizmos and software (which have empowered me) have done to formerly viable careers. It's not that I don't care. It's that I don't believe that standing still in the face of the realities is healthy. I guess you can call me an evolutionist where that is concerned. If the river stops running you move to where there's more rain.

But given that, what I find infinitely more interesting is things in the macro view.

I like the tools, the toys, the hype. The uncertainty, the hope, the reality. The botched first efforts, the second and third runs at getting things right, and the elegant solutions vice the utilitarian. The competition, the sharing. The rants, the flame wars, the fanboys, the luddites, the people with an itch to scratch and the drive to make new products. ALL of it.

Digital has touched everything in at least some tangential way, so many things have changed in my lifetime and that the vast majority of people seem to either be blissfully aware of it, afraid of it, resistant to the change or some combination of the above absolutely cracks me up. I am of the last generation who grew up without a computer in every home and I have gotten to see that change. And despite that, we are just at the beginning of what is possible and what is to come. Again, it's not just photography, it touches everything that I find interesting. I drink this stuff in and love to think about where it's going to change our lives next.

Quote:
People keep agreeing with that, but their actions and words show they really do believe hardware is talent.

You are never going to stop that, but you CAN at least guide them, a little! People see my camera and say 'ooh nice camera, you must take great pictures' regardless of whether I am able to produce pure trash with it or the greatest artistry mankind has ever known. I simply reply with 'you should see the pen I wrote my last novel with' or 'I hear you made a great dinner last night, you must have awesome pots and pans'. They kinda laugh and, for just a second, I think they 'get' why what they said was so silly. It's all about attitude.

Quote:
If you order something and put a hello to me in the special comments, I'll throw a little of one of my favorite teas for you. Some of them get kind of expensive, but I'll do it since you're such a good bud.

Deal! When I get through this current box of Salada I definitely will. I don't go for those crazy superfruity herbal teas tho, I like simple black teas with natural flavor =) May pick your brain on those at that time.

Sam

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#11 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 08 2008 - 12:10 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
Deal! When I get through this current box of Salada I definitely will. I don't go for those crazy superfruity herbal teas tho, I like simple black teas with natural flavor =) May pick your brain on those at that time.

Sam
Oh GAWD. Well, at least it isn't Lipton, though it's not much better. Of course, you'll need some kind of infuser, since there are not many decent teas in bags. Don't sweat about choices. We have over 200 different loose teas, and I also don't care for most herbals. Some of the rooibos are pretty decent though. I also like plain black tea, but the treat you probably have never tried is Estate teas, which are the equivalent of a fine wine. The stuff you've had before are blends, but Estate teas are from one farm and can have very distinctive characteristics. My hands down favorite is Emperor's Red, with Yunnan Royal Golden coming in second. Look them up on the site.

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#12 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted July 08 2008 - 12:38 PM

Will do, thanks sir!

I don't dig lipton either, it tastes too watered down for me no matter how strongly you try to brew it. I like Salada tho, it's got a nice smooth taste to my barbarian palatte. If you think Salada's bad tho, I won't even MENTION the Starbucks iced black tea I'm hooked on =)

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#13 of 37 troy evans

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Posted July 08 2008 - 01:44 PM

John, you must be some kick ass salesman. In just a few posts you've got me wanting some tea.....TEA! You sir are going to do just fine in this new career me thinks......just fine. Posted Image
" I think it's time we go to plan B". "What's plan B?" "That's the one where we don't do something stupid".

#14 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 08 2008 - 01:48 PM

On a scale of 1-10, Lipton is a 1. Salada is a 1.5, 2 at the most forgiving. Is that Starbuck's an unflavored, as far as you know? Now that I think of it, you're buying iced tea at Starbucks, and you want me to send you stuff for free? Something stinks with that. If you can try to describe the Starbuck's iced, I can give some vastly better suggestions. Some of the Keemuns are good iced. I really like the Imperial, and one of our wholesale customers goes through several lbs of Lion Mtn each month.

The Hybrid System

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#15 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 08 2008 - 01:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by troy evans
John, you must be some kick ass salesman. In just a few posts you've got me wanting some tea.....TEA! You sir are going to do just fine in this new career me thinks......just fine. Posted Image
I've actually spent most of my life in sales. First retail (photo, of course), then as a rep for Minolta. Plus, if you think being a Commercial Photographer isn't 98% sales and 2% photography, I have news for you. The fact is, I was always rather successful as a salesman. I just hated it, and I didn't have the "personality" (You've seen Tin Men?) Minolta wanted, plus I absolutely hated the job. Did I already say that? Still, the hard reality is on my last day working there I was 9th out of 42 salesmen.

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#16 of 37 DavidJ

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Posted July 08 2008 - 03:18 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice
I'm reminded of another HTFer who said a few years ago about the advent of DV and inexpensive editing and mastering software, that "Now anyone can be a talented filmmaker". Yes, I practically took offense at that. It's the word Talented that is the problem. The cheap equipment amkes it easy to try, but it does not make anyone talented. People keep agreeing with that, but their actions and words show they really do believe hardware is talent.

John, I wanted to comment on the above, but first let me say good luck with your new endeavor and that I commiserate with you about all the mixed feelings that you must be dealing with at the moment.

As far as the above, I find the attitude expressed above interesting. One of the things that I have "done" for the past fifteen years is run a media production company. I also have taught in some capacity/part-time for nearly 10 years. It is weird to often be in a situation where we are teaching future competitors and they often request business advice as they start out. I love to help them get started and am often a resource for them over the years. I love to seem them succeed. Occasionally we will lose jobs to former students and sometimes it is to the "lesser" ones who don't want to learn from your experience or advice. The strange thing is how many of those clients end up coming back to us.

DV and other digital advancements have democratised the process and I have no problem with that. In the past, talented people were often kept out because of the financial investment involved. Know there is an influx of people, distribution methods, technology that is pushing things forward. The more talented people that get involved in media should increase our chances of having better and better productions. Competition is key, but it takes more than talent. It also takes business acumen. Now you have to be talented, good at what you do and very good at running a business.

But it is a battle and if you've done it or anything for a long period of time, a change is often necessary. The ironic thing is that I have entertained thoughts of going back to my first love...photography. I would love to open a nature gallery, but I would obviously have to take on some commercial jobs to help pay the bills. Then I stumbled across this thread and read of your change and the sobering state of the industry. I wasn't unfamiliar with it, but it was still enlightening.

So tea, huh? I really love both iced and hot tea, but based on what I've read here my palette is not very developed. I'll have to work on that.

Again, good luck in your new endeavor and I hope that now that it is a "sideline" for you that you get to fall in love with photography all over again.

#17 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted July 08 2008 - 03:45 PM

Excellent comments David.

Yes, the market for any photography, and possibly especially nature, is certainly tough. One of my clients is an art gallery here in town. The owner is a former full time photographer and he also represents a few other photographers. He has commented on how often he overhears people talking as they look at the photos in the gallery, saying things like, "but anyone can take a picture". It just doesn't occur to them. That is really the problem, perception.

Anyway, tea may seem like an odd change, but it started almost two years ago. This was one of my main accounts, and it can get tough finding enough people to make it through Christmas. Well, that also happens to be the same time commercial photography completely dies. The owner came to me in late summer 2006 and asked if I'd help her get through Christmas. It worked out well and is continually growing, while the photography industry is dying and my frustration with it is reaching critical mass. A new commercial building was purchased this spring to deal with the growth and the owner knew she needed someone to manage the employees and operations, while she deals more with customer service, purchasing and so on. That's where I came in, and it's a welcome change.

The irony of photography being a sideline is that I will probably, after a while, get my darkroom running again. I have an incredibly well equipped darkroom and I can and have processed and printed everything there is. I can do my own E-6 up to 4x5. Prints up to 20x24. Color, B&W, whatever. I may actually follow through on moving it to what is now a storage room, which is roughly 14x18 ft. That would be one awesome darkroom.

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

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#18 of 37 Jon_Are

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Posted July 31 2008 - 12:52 AM

John,

This thread has been a real interesting (and yes, sad) read. Best of luck with the tea bag.

(get it? tea is your new bag! never mind)

So, I'm wondering now, how you envision your future as it relates to photography. What will you shoot? (different stuff than before?) How often will you shoot? Do you feel you'll be looking at photography with new eyes now that you'll no longer depend on it to earn you a living? Will you garner any income at all with it? Are you pissed of at photography?

Jon

#19 of 37 nolesrule

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Posted July 31 2008 - 04:08 AM

I'm sorry to hear about your struggles John. As much as I wish I could be a good photographer, I never will be and I know the true value of a professional.

I've seen the results of letting an amateur shoot important lifecycle events and would only hire a professional. It's more expensive, but at least you'll have those photographs at the end of the day.

I don't take my daughter to those mall photographers, because it's 10 clicks and you're done...no guarantee of even one good photo. The pro we take my daughter too took 190 shots over about 45 minutes and we spent nearly 2 hours narrowing down to decide what we wanted to print.

The pro I use is also struggling a bit, but he's still making it, because he shoots just about every type of photo need out there. I'd rather give him my business then some hack because I know I'll get what I want the first time around...and sometimes you only get one shot at it.

#20 of 37 JohnRice

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Posted August 01 2008 - 03:01 AM

Actually, I am just fine with my new bag (thanks Jon). The truth is, photography has always been kind of a co-dependent thing for me. It's been 30 plus years of love/hate. It was my entire identity from grade school into college, but it got increasingly difficult. I know it sounds strange to hear someone talk about it as such a tormenting experience when virtually everyone views it as such a release. Like pretty much anything, if you go into it too deeply annd become too wrapped up in it, there will be difficulties.

So, yes, I definitely continue to do work for hire. I'm just very selective. There's no point to taking on a client who doesn't have any regard. Plus, photography is officially part of my day job as well. In the long run I hope to get my darkroom going again and get back to what drew me to photography in the first place. The great thing is I can get used medium format equipment dirt cheap now. I can really beef up my Bronica outfit if I want.

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.



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