>Hasta La Vista Babies
>Well, my time as a baby photographer has come to an end. I realize I may jump from job to job a bit too much, but I have my reasons. Driving 500+ miles every week with little compensation was my biggest beef. It gives you a lot of time to think about life and gas prices.
It also was getting to be against my morals and ethics to continue. I was working for a company that considers itself one of the largest in home baby and family photography companies in the country. They do not screen employees at all for drugs or anything else fishy in their background. In fact, it is the only job I’ve had without a pre-employment drug screen. If only the parents knew this. There are carpet cleaning companies in the area that boast that their employees that enter your home have been thoroughly checked, yet folks that get near your babies are not held to those standards.
Furthermore, the business practices were a bit shady. For as large as they claimed to be, there was no printed employee handbook or standards to go by. Rules were made up as we went along and policies changed week to week. It really made me feel comfortable with the company I was representing. This was on top of sales pitches based on lies, and I don’t use that term lightly. I know sales can be dirty, but I was selling sitting plans for visits that would be completely free if the customer approached the company for them. It was pitched as a deal they couldn’t pass up, because we would charge an expensive sitting fee otherwise, but by discussing this with other employees in different parts of the company, we realized that was a sham. The future sitting plans were pure profit and by selling those, we helped the company pay our salary without that money being tied to anything else. Genius, but ruthless. I felt horrible selling with this knowledge, but we all have to make a living. Sometimes I avoided the selling, which made me look bad to those in charge, but I made my money from taking the photos anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned.
Funny thing is, I was called on my lies by some customers, and what do you do in such a situation? A father called me “a fucking liar” for telling him that I had no idea what our prices were and I liked just doing my job as a photographer. That line sounds like a load of crap anyway, but it was fed to me, and he called me on it. “How can you work for a company and have no idea what they sell your product for?,” he asked. I had no response, but to “have a nice day”.
It’s a drain knowing more and more of the dark side of a company you represent; a company you work for without much gas compensation, with no paid vacation or holidays, yet still pushes you further to not tell the customer much, because that would scare them away before the salespeople get to them.
When those henchmen arrive, we get more of their money through packages that are pitched from the most expensive down to wet their appetites. Again, genius, but sick. Even the lowest priced packages are too much for even me, but these are their kids, right? I had to consider the places I was working in. I was shooting in trailers, in rundown ghetto housing and apartments, and in places without ceilings and with huge insect problems. We were going after their money? I understand that those people make the choice to spend, but how can one feel completely comfortable knowing that you’re helping contribute to that lifestyle. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on photos, go to Wal-Mart, spend $10 for 85 pictures, and put the rest towards fixing that leaky ceiling, having the Orkin man swing by, or getting some much needed dental work.
To illustrate my point, I shall elaborate. This goes for the family that had baby roaches crawling through their trailer, most noticeably in the kitchen, all over the stovetop surrounding the thawing pounds of raw meat. (See image below) In addition, the young daughter ate a Happy Meal, which she dumped on the floor first and proceeded to munch on. It was as if they were trying to rub it in, but no one said anything about the critters. I simply cancelled the rest of my day to shower myself and hope for no further contamination.
click to enlarge, but you should get the idea
This goes for the family with the dad that casually showed us his ankle bracelet monitor, which was to keep him from doing bad things. Or the house without a lamp with a shade and a drop ceiling without drop tiles, with the insulation hanging down and water dripping onto my equipment and paperwork.
I certainly do not discriminate. I never judged folks until I soaked them in first. There are lots of fine people out there in bad situations, hell, lots of good kids out there in bad situations, like having to sleep with rodents, insects, or no air conditioning in ninety degree heat. As I have said before in this blog, I felt like a government spy of sorts, but I couldn’t do much about it but take it all in.
Despite the company being a joke, I enjoyed taking pictures and being around the babies. Driving takes its toll on you though. It gives you time to ponder how messed up things are, and that can get to be depressing.