Jim Colburn - Don't Ask


Speculation...The world has recently been treated to the sight of a few former captains of industry being paraded through the streets of New York in handcuffs. While I must admit that it did my heart good to see those folks from Woldcom and Adelphia subjected to public ridicule, I have a question for them, their lawyers and their (I'm sure highly paid) public relations people....Have you pinheads been asleep for the last 50 years or so? Do you watch the TV or read a newspaper? Haven't you guys ever seen a perp walk before?

Why do you think Mr. Common Criminal has learned to A) keep their head down, B) wear a hat, C) throw a blanket over their head or D) all of the above? It's so that their faces won't appear in tomorrow's Daily News or splashed all over the News At Six before being passed along to the network so that Peter Jennings can re-run the footage. I doubt that there's some ancient knowledge of this passed from holding cell to holding cell at Riker's Island, it's just so damn obvious that any 18-year-old Bodega hold-up artist knows the procedure. Next time Mr. Sullivan, wear an old pair of jeans, a black sweatshirt and a New York Yankees baseball cap pulled down over your face so that no one recognizes you when your picture runs the next day. Trust me, it's a New York tradition.

The Internet Bubble. Rampant Speculation..... America's culture has been infected and the concept is spreading. The speculation part I mean. It seems that some buyers of photography have started to call up a few brash, young photographers and say, "There's an event today at Noon. I can't give you an assignment but if you'll cover it I'll look at your pictures." This, young photographers, is called "working on spec" or, as the Romans would have called it, "being stupid." It's actually one step below, if that were possible, working as a wire service stringer because you'll have to pay for your own film, processing and transportation (just as with the wires service) but THEY HAVEN'T PROMISED TO GIVE YOU ANY MONEY.

Think about it long and hard before you agree to work "on spec" young Luke. If someone knows that you work for free, why will they feel that they have to give you an assignment? I suppose that the theory is that if you do enough work "on spec" and they learn to like your work then they'll give you an assignment. Think about again. If you decide to stop working for free there's probably another person out their that will work "on spec." It's a never ending cycle. Sort of like the ups and downs in the stock market.

One more thing about the market for you young photographers just starting out. If you haven't already done so go to your bank and open an IRA. Put in whatever you can, even if it's only $50 a month or so and put it in a good mutual fund. Then, when your 65 or so (and I realize that 65 is soooo far away) and you're the only photographer you know with some money in the bank you can raise a glass of whatever you're drinking to me and my great advice.

Jim Colburn
Contributing Writer

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