Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Photography Studio

If You Build It - Will They Come?

People starting a new business in the midst of a recession might be likened to firefighters. They run into a burning building, when everyone else is running out! The big difference being, of course, that firefighters know what they are doing, and carefully consider their actions - and the risks - before making a move.

Earlier this week, I signed a lease agreement on an 800 square foot premises in The Old Creamery Business Centre, in the small village of Ardagh (I say arr-dah), County Limerick, close to where I live. The village is probably best known for the the discovery, in 1868, of The Ardagh Chalice, which is thought to have been made in the 8th Century, and is one of the finest examples of Celtic art ever discovered. I can't swear that what will be found in my studio will equate with the Ardagh Chalice, in terms of its artistic value, but I am hoping that it will be deemed valuable - to some degree!

It's a strange feeling signing a contract to rent a commercial premises. There is no guarantee that the business will succeed - and some pundits claim that only about 1 in 3 start-up businesses turn a profit. And, that's based on figures taken when the economy was a lot healthier than it is nowadays. So, I'm feeling very nervous - but I'm also feeling very excited. And, I've never been one to shy away from a challenge - well, hardly ever!

The photograph above, which I took today, shows work in progress on the reception, toilet and kitchen areas being built inside the main studio. My basic plan for the remaining floor space is to divide it up into "People Photography", "Product Photography" and "teaching areas".

I'll keep you posted with new progress photos in the next week or so. I should be ready to open by early April 2009 - and if you're on my email list, I'll be sending you an invitation to the studio-warming party! If you'd like to come - send me an email and I'll add you to the mailing list, just to be on the safe side!

Oh, I don't have a name for the studio as yet. A friend suggested "Chalice Studios & Photography School" (after the Ardagh Chalice). But, if you have any other suggestions - let me know. I'm even considering offering a prize to anyone who suggests a name I use - if I didn't think of it already! (hints: my surname is Power; it's a photography and teaching establishment; it's in Ardagh, County Limerick, Ireland).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Working for Photography Magazines

Blogger Hits the Jackpot

When I was 16, and on the verge of leaving school - with very few exam qualifications to my name - a friend spotted an advert in the local paper for a business that was recruiting for an apprentice. I went for an interview, mainly because I didn't really see myself as having any other options.

The decision to employ me or not was probably made after the first question: "What are your ambitions?" and my reply: "I want to be a journalist". I doubt that went over well in the office of a firm that made false teeth - and my glorious career as a dental technician was over before it began.

And, so in some ways, was my career as a journalist (it was only later I realised that what I really meant was "photo-journalist"). I tried working freelance for a while, and even joined the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) in the late 1970's. But, My lack of academic qualifications meant that local newspapers wouldn't even interview me, and the "freelance" option wasn't something that my mother would consider "a steady job". So, for many years, I followed a different career path that provided a PPP (permanent, pensionable position) - and even the qualifications that would have got me the local newspaper interview.

But, by then, it was too late to change horses in mid-stream. I climbed the clinical and academic ladders of my steady job - and pursued my photographic "hobby" when I had the time. This included working for local newspapers, magazines and picture agencies during my days off "work" - and I found myself doing the sort of work that full-time professionals are offered and wearing more "access all areas" passes than a part-timer should expect.

In the last few years, my personal and financial circumstances were such that I could jump off the PPP wagon and finally try to fulfill the ambition that I proudly declared to the false-teeth maker when I was a lad. I've had some success - and I'm slowly starting to feel like a real photographer. Of course, the economic downturn hasn't exactly helped - but I'm just seeing that as bad timing, rather than a bad decision.

Yesterday, I got an email from Ian Farrell the editor of Professional Photographer Magazine, in the UK. He offered me 3 writing jobs for the May 2009 issue, a promise of a bigger feature in June and a regular Blog spot, the first of which appeared this morning, at this link. It's an edited version of my previous post on The Snappy Snapper - but in future I intend to vary the content of both blogs, where possible.

I've been emailing Ian Farrell, his publisher and the web editor since the middle of last year, telling them that I can take a photograph and write and that I'd like to work for them. Not very much happened until yesterday. Normally I would have given up ages ago, a bit like I did shortly after my visit to the tooth factory.

There's a lesson there somewhere. The tooth fairy won't make ambitions come true. But maybe persistence and holding on to the dream, will.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spotting Photography Scams

Beware Laurence Smith

I got a message, yesterday, directly from my photography website - which read as follows.

I am Laurence Smith, UK. I have a Fashion job (Assignment) for you. My client wants to update her Catalog with her monthly release Fashion outfits and i am interested in you for the shooting. I am a Model Agent by profession with about a few years experience. Find all details of the job,once you mail me with your interest ..
Laurence Smith

Even at first reading, it seems a bit "odd". The grammatical structure of some of the sentences is a bit strange - "I am Laurence Smith, UK", (and not, based in the UK - or WHERE in the UK); "catalog" is the American-English spelling, rather than English-English ("catalogue"); the "i" in the 3rd sentence is lower case; "for the shooting" is not an English turn of phrase and "with about a few years experience" is not exactly "the Queen's English" , either. I could go on, and you may spot a few other oddities for yourself.

My alarm bells were ringing fairly loudly - so I sent off an email to a professional photographer's group to which I belong, NVJ Photo which is an off-shoot of the now-closed mailing list for the National Union of Journalists.

It wasn't long before I got a number of very informative replies. It would seem that Laurence Smith (obviously not his real name) is already well-known to the professional photography community, as an "advanced payment scam" monger. The widely-acclaimed Scottish Press & PR photographer Nick McGowan-Lowe sent me a link to the "Fraud Watchers" website, where there is a forum thread entirely dedicated to Laurence Smith and his nefarious activities.

It would appear that the basis of this particular "overpayment scam" is that Laurence Smith will agree a fee for the Fashion Assignment (which doesn't exist) - of usually €6000 - and agree to pay you in advance. He then sends you a cheque for MORE than the agreed fee, and asks you to send the difference on to a third party (him, in another guise, I presume). The original cheque bounces and you have sent several thousand euros to a confidence trickster than you'll never hear from again.

From reading messages on that forum, it would seem that the hoax is quite elaborate. Laurence Smith will reply if you respond to the first email, even telling you about his client (in one message I read, he refers to his client as a wedding dress shop in county Tipperary, which I found on the web - although the phone number was out of order). He even talks about the shoot being in Connolly, Dublin (which is an area of the city and the name of a railway station).

My guess is that the scam would be modified according to the location in which you are based. Because it was relayed to my email address from the website, it must have been submitted by a real live person, rather than an email robot of some sort, which is equally disturbing.

So, be on the look out for Laurence Smith (or whatever he may call himself) when a too-good-to-be-true job offer lands in your email box.

And watch out, generally, for the tell-tell signs of a scam. If it feels "fishy" - it probably IS fishy!