I have noticed out there on the web a slew of photographers whining about the state of the industry. For sure there is a lot to be concerned about in our business: Magazines going out of business, WFH contracts, Getty under cutting us all etc. But it has been my experience that as a class: photographers are a big bunch of whiners.
When I was 17 I worked as a photo intern for the Baltimore Sun and I got to spend time with guys who had been at the paper since Eisenhower was president. They were protected by the union and were constantly on the phone running one or two side businesses usually revolving around some real estate enterprise. They all went home for three hour lunches and would drive out in the country (where the radios didn't work ) to go "feature hunting" (features are images of slice of life that newspapers run to fill the giant news whole). Invariably the photographer would come back to the office empty handed at the end of his shift and you swore you could still see a little drool in the corner of his mouth where had taken that nap on the side of the road.
I did not have a car and could only do assignments I could walk to so I spent a lot of time hanging around the office. I would be on the recieving end of many a harange from these old timers. The advice was always the same. Photographers are getting screwed. They are not appreciated and to get out while I still could.
So I went to college to become a photojournalist. I interned at a bunch of papers around the country and got burned out at 23. I sold my cameras, moved to San Francisco and worked a series of deadend jobs.
I worked as a temp in an office for a few years. For six weeks I looked at a rows of numbers on a of stack paper and checked them against other rows of numbers on Microfiche looking for numbers that were out of place. Each day I counted down the minutes until my break at 10:15, half hour lunch at 12:30 and another break at 3. Then one day a recent MBA grad my age came back to see the four of us who had been working this project. He said he had made a mistake. The numbers were fine and we could go home.
I drove an airport shuttle bus. Not one of those slick blue ones where the drivers wear cool satin jackets. I drove for an off brand company. I would arrive to work at 4:30 in the morning to drive and half my co-workers were still drunk from the night before. The vans were in such bad shape I couldn't go up steep hills in San Francisco and the Nob Hill passengers were always confused by the routes I would take.
I worked as a nanny, a bartender, a day laborer. It got so bad I decided to apply to law school. I was all ready to go back to a school in Baltimore when at the last minute I took a job as a photography intern at a small San Francisco magazine making minimum wage. Soon after that I got a job as a staff photographer at that paper and the rest is photographic history.
One of my first assignments was to photograph the head of a company. I set lights up in the parking lot and was ready at the appointed hour. 10 minutes passed and then 15. I was pissed. Where the hell was this guy? How could he keep me waiting? Didn't he know who I was? I was about to pack up the gear and tell my editor the subject was a no show when it occured to me that just six months prior I would have been willing spend the night in the parking lot for a chance to be a photographer and to be in this position.
I knew what is was like to work for a living and this was not it.