Friday, June 19, 2009

The Economy Sucks, and it is ok to acknowledge that

Nobody is looking for fresh talent.

I have a friend with a great photo rep, a solid commercial and editorial background, and gorgeous style who is worrying about paying his mortgage right now. His billing is 7,000 in arrears, with some clients at the 9 month mark. Jobs that were paying him $6,000 just a year ago are not asking him to bid $2,000.

So no, this is not a bright and cozy present we are living in. There are a few few people who are not feeling the pinch, for the rest of us the debt is rising and the jobs are disappearing.

There is a respected photographer on MM who constantly states that the economy isn't affecting him. I don't really know what is supposed to be accomplished by stating that the client base is still there and that it is still paying what it always paid. Maybe it is to make people feel bad that they aren't finding work?

Maybe it is to encourage people to keep looking?

But is false reassurance.

The reality for the greatest percentage of professional photographers is that life sucks. That clients are looking for trade shooters to shoot professional lookbooks, and I have been given offers for $250 for a full lookbook and 2 magazine ads.

It would be nice to believe that if you just market yourself right and work really hard that the jobs will come. That having satisfied clients will bring in more work. that the publicity from doing outstanding work for one publication will gather more work in other publications, but right now that is just pie in the sky bull crap.

I am considered the most successful photographer in my graduating class, and I am not making rent.

I remember a day, not too long ago, where I called 5 local editors. Out of those 5 editors, all were no longer working at the magazine they had been working at, and nobody was being hired to take their place.

Magazines are thinner then they ever used to be, and are dropping off like flies. Have you seen how large the print font has become in Entertainment Weekly?

So I am here to tell people it is ok if you aren't doing as well as you hoped. it is ok if you are producing salable work, but are unable to get anyone on the phone. It is ok if your book hasn't left its shelf for the last month, and you lost two jobs to people willing to do for free what you have to charge for. It is ok.

The economy will improve, the jobs will come back.

But I refuse to feel badly because I live in the real world, the world where the clients are lowering bids and raising expectations of what will be delivered wanting unlimited usage for no additional fee.

I live in the world where one of my classmates is still working at the school we graduated from 10 months ago. The world where my friend, a Rolling Stone, Spin and multiple other publications repped photographer is afraid he will lose his house from unpaid invoices.

I live in the world where photographers offer unpaid "internships" illegally in order to not pay for assistants, a place where I was counting on my skills being of marketability.

I live in the world where the LA Weekly gets 6-10 phone calls a day from photographers hoping to get work, when there is room for maybe 7 photographers total on their staff.

That is my world. And it is the world of the vast majority of young professional photographers.

I know this seems like a vehement response, but I have been seeing people over the past few months speak about how the economy isn't that bad and isn't affecting established photographers too badly.

I am here to say that that isn't true, and not just from my experience, but from the experience of every young photographer I know. So if you have been struggling of late, it isn't just you. You are not alone, and if you are producing commercially viable work, it isn't your fault. You aren't missing something, it just sucks to be a photographer in this market and this time.

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