Changing Directions

Friends and business associates often ask “how’s business?” I have to say that 2006 was my best year and there’s been a decline since then. Since my market has been tied to magazine and book publishing how my business fares is connected to how the publishing business fares.

This morning a quote caught my eye over on A Photo Editor: “Chicken Little, don your hardhat. Nudged by recession, doom has arrived.” I followed the link to an interesting post on Advertising Age by Bob Garfield. The basic thrust is that the mutually beneficial relationship between big media and advertising is going away. With the rapid rise of the internet, where most people expect content to be free, where the barriers to creating content are low, and where the supply of advertising is high the end result is a quickly receeding revenue stream and dropping valuations for media companies.

Referring to magazines, Bob writes:

In 2008, newsstand sales — the profit engine of the industry — fell 12%. According to Media Industry Newsletter, gross ad pages so far in 2009 have dropped a staggering 22% — that coming off a dismal 2008. In recent months, Condé Nast has folded Domino, Meredith has folded Country Home, Ziff-Davis has folded PC Magazine, Hearst has folded CosmoGirl and O at Home, The New York Times has folded Play, and Hachette has folded Home.

Over the years Country Home and Home have been among my customers. Bob doesn’t talk about books, because they’ve rarely been ad-supported, but two publishers in the gardening world have folded up shop in the last few months. Sunset Books is no more; likewise Meredith garden books.

Rights-managed stock photography through big agencies continues to consolidate and license fees are slipping. Will sales return as the economy improves? I don’t know but I’m skeptical.

So to answer the original question, business is deteriorating. Yet I’m optimistic that by changing directions and focusing my efforts on a more personal kind of photography I’ll be successful. For years I’ve avoided the business I now find that I enjoy very much. There’s great satisfaction in helping families remember important phases in their lives through portraiture. I’m excited about 2009 and hope to see some of you for a portrait session.

Pearl Django at Interconnect

Pearl Django at Interconnect SystemsI went to the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce Business After Business tonight and was delighted to find that our hosts, Curtis & Felicity Dye of Interconnect Systems had invited Pearl Django to come up from Seattle and make wonderful music for us.

The monthly Business After Business events are a relaxed way to socialize with other business people from the community. There’s always good food and beverages, but not always live music. And rarely is the music of the caliber of tonight’s affair.

There are often door prizes at these affairs. Tonight I was the lucky winner of one of two signed CDs by Pearl Django. I’ve been listening to these folks on KPLU for years, but this was the first time I’d heard them in person so winning a CD was a special treat.

Felicity & Curtis DyeToward the end of the evening Curtis & Felicity danced to one of the tunes. No one else got up to dance, although the offer was open.

The pair of photos here were made with my iPhone and processed in Adobe Lightroom before posting. Fluorescent lighting isn’t the most flattering, but with care the phone captures the occasion. It’s noisy and low resolution, but sometimes that just doesn’t matter.
Thanks, Curtis, for having us over tonight.

End of an Era

Today I delivered hundreds of pounds of note cards to theWashington Native Plant Society offices in Seattle. Yesterday, the good people from the ReStore in Bellingham picked up another truckload. After 15 years, I’m out of the note card business.

Back in 1993 when I was laid off from my day job, I went into business with a line of note cards. I invested thousands in printing and then tried to peddle them through retailers. After a year I determined I couldn’t make a sufficient living in the paper products business and changed course. Since then I continued to sell some of the cards, but mostly they were taking up space.

That space will now become a more friendly camera room for portraits. I’ve still got some cleanup work to do, but it feels good to have the cards gone. The two groups that took them, along with the Whatcom Land Trust, which took some cards earlier this month, will put them to good use in the coming years. Otherwise they would have fed the hydropulper at some paper mill.