Friday, April 24, 2009


I don’t think my town is all that much different from a lot of places in America today. Not that many years ago there were three locally owned and operated camera stores, and today there are none. The only local selection of camera’s and photo gear is Walmart has to sell. Yet in the current economic situation the pundits and politicians talk about small business as the source of jobs and economic recovery, while I see ever more empty commercial spaces where another locally owned and operated business has disappeared; and the businesses that remain are big-box stores and corporate fast food, drug and office and home supply outlets. Maybe they (McDonalds and Best Buy) are a part of the businesses the media and Congress’ count as being “small”.

I can’t count how many times Shutterbug readers have e-mailed me for purchasing advise because there is no place they can get to and see in reality what to choose from to buy, much less talk to a knowledgeable sales person about personal needs and the products that might fill those requirements. Of course should I complain as it does keep me busy. But I cannot forget that when I was a young photographer the local camera stores in the small city I was in were an invaluable knowledge resource and it would have been much more difficult to acquire a basic understanding of photography without the generosity of those behind the counter, as well as the books and magazines not to mention all of the stuff in the stores you could not afford but piqued your curiosity. Those days are gone but for a few professional photographer’s stores in select large cities.

Obviously the clock can’t be turned back and the past restored, but there are a lot of people out of work these days, and I am sure many with a knowledge and understanding of computers and what it takes to set-up and run a digital darkroom as well as those who know something of photography; one, two or more living in your town. The economic gurus talk of entrepreneurship and making opportunities for one-self, but is there a way in today’s world? I can imagine with so many businesses closing there must be a wealth of goods that could be bought and resold to the advantage of many digital photo enthusiasts, but there is no go-between, no one on a small local level trading in used and surplus photo gear and computers. For instance, when the violence subsided in Iraq the street markets bloomed with shops like sprouting mushrooms, not here, however.

The reason that with so many Americans out of work are not going into business for themselves with shops sprouting in open lots like mushrooms, like we see in news video from Iraq, and many 3rd world countries almost daily, is that there is a built-in structural impediment in America. After decades of corporate big-box marketing expansion, often with the tacit approval of local governments, and and active encouragement I’m sure, walls of impediments have been built to shut out the small, locally owned individual kinds of self-employment, very high individual business license fees at a local level along with myriad zoning and use restrictions, safety issues, etc., etc., etc, and then at county and state levels the governments demand an assurance of their collecting sales taxes, and other requirements of a regulatory nature are met. Even at the federal level, income tax rules and rates favor being the salaried slave of the corporations, paying the IRS is automatic and relatively simple for the employed, but if you work for yourself, besides the burden of self-employment tax you have to document every day’s activity from beginning to end to be sure all your costs of doing business are proved on paper or you even pay taxes just for trying to do business, much less than just on profits. Some might say that only the naive or the masochistic would choose to be self-employed, and people like me who found working for corporations is worse.

You might get the impression that I am prejudiced against the corporations, but how can I be when there are companies like Canon, Epson, Apple and Adobe without which we would have no digital photography! But these last few months have revealed that the influence of corporations on our quality of life has been for the corporations like shooting themselves in the foot, not just one, but both feet. Although they claim the rights of an individual person, a corporation seems to lack the human ability to learn from their mistakes and can’t see that if what they do isn’t good for people, it isn’t good for them either.

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