Priorities are important when travelling and living in a new country. Get a job, get a place to live, get some friends. Although it usually happening in reverse order. My priority was still to get a job as soon as possible. Securing a stable income was essential for staying in Canada. The idea of becoming broke and having my parents pay for a flight home, beg for my old job back and pretending to put the few months living in Canada down as a "learning experience" horrified me. I couldn't come back a failure. I had to get a job.
One morning whilst grazing on Indeed I came across a promising sounding job opportunity. A photography studio in an attractive area of Vancouver was hiring. I had applied for a lot of jobs recently, predominately engineering with no response. So when I get a response from the studio inviting me for an interview I was immediately excited. "I can stay in Vancouver, get a place, get some friends, watch ice hockey, be polite to everyone and do whatever Canadian people do." I thought to myself.
The one potential vice to my dream future and dream job in Vancouver was the studio had some quite bad reviews on Google. Polarising reviews of 5 stars and 1 star, people either loved this place or thought it was shit and unfortunately, the 1 stars did slightly outweigh the 5 stars. "Well, sounds like they need me" I thought to myself, thinking I could change all the issues the studio may currently be suffering from with my non existing studio photography knowledge.
I arrived at the studio location and was greeted by a rather dull looking shop front. Jet black iron railings covered the glass panes. Inside were tided old leather sofas. The walls were covered in large portraits, eerily starring at me. I felt like I was standing in the sitting room of the Adams family.
There was no-one behind the reception desk so I rang the hotel lobby style bell to summon whatever was behind the black door beyond the reception desk.
A man appeared, I was expecting a woman as it was a woman who had been replying to all my emails. He was the husband of the woman who had been emailing me and to be fair he seemed friendly and personable. He sat me down on the old leather sofa and began the interview. Initially asking me questions about photography, how I got into it, my travel places etc, general questions I was expecting from an interview at a studio. All seems to be going well until he asked me "so what salary are you expecting from working here?" Misanswering this question was my fatal mistake. I had been travelling a lot and I knew what the average salary was in Canada however I accidentally quoted a salary for Australia. Maybe about $25 an hour. I guess this was my first job interview outside of the UK since I lived in Australia so my mind briefly went back to Sydney Mike. This set him off on a mild manner rant about the photography industry. "The photography industry was dying, his studio was dying, he was dying, everything was dying"
This rant went on for a good half an hour and it was getting a bit embarrassing. Occasionally he would ask me another question and progress the interview but even before I finished answering his question he would return to his rant.
"Because everyone nowadays takes the photos on there iphone"
We are barely keeping the shop doors open at the moment.
I almost felt guilty about applying for a job here, or rather responding to the advert they placed.
At first the guy started off by talking about how the industry is in massive decline because of the iphone and how he is barely staying open. He said that if I was a very good photographer I could maybe make about $14 an hour which is just above minimum wage in Canada. This gloomy rant went on for about 30 minutes and he kept repeating himself. He would ask me the odd interview question but whenever I started to answer he would go back to the same rant about the declining industry.
After an ambition mauling he said the first part of the interview was over and invited me to see the studio. "Do you want to come through and see the studio?"
"Not really, but fuck it, I might as well since I am here" I thought to myself. I had no desire to do another involving this studio, but I might as well see the studio whilst I am here. "Sure, let's do it" I responded with fake enthusiasm.
Each studio room was relativity basic.
One the thing I was expecting was each studio had a large metal column on wheel in the middle.
With the pull of a few hand a feet operated levers noisy electric motors would move the camera move up and down and tilt up and down. It felt like I was operating a cannon rather than a camera.
In fact, you could say "I felt like I was operating a cannon rather than a canon!" Hilarious camera joke although technically incorrect as the cameras were Nikon but fuck it, when I am going to have the opportunity to make a joke like that again?
I have seen less intimidating x-ray machines than the setup they had here.
I felt like I was performing a MRI scan on the guy rather than taking his photo.
I wasn’t allowed to make any changes to the cameras or the lighting. I flicked a switch on the camera to turn off autofocus so I didn't have to hold down 1 button whilst pressing another button to take the photo. Not a big deal, just personal preference but he didn't like this. "You changed the camera, I told you not to change the camera".
Overall a bit of a weird experience. I know I am new to studio photography and therefore a bit ignorant. But is it all like this? The guy said he has been in the industry for 30 years but I think he is an example of someone who doesn’t innovate enough. Just because you have been doing something for a long time doesn’t mean you are good at it. Especially in an industry that has gone through some rapid changes recently.
My idea of a studio would be much simpler. Just a camera, some lighting, a nice backdrop, reference monitor and lots of props. A setup for good interaction between the photographer and the talent, not this hiding behind some mechanical camera column nonsense.
I asked him if he does event photography which is the area I know best. He said he only does photography in the studio and in my mind he is missing out hugely on business. There are always events happening in universities which could use with a photographer. He has the connection to the university and he is not using it.
Anyway, that was just a little rant about my job interview. Hope you are all well. Greetings from Canada.