21 June 2009

Taxes; and Death by Paperwork

There’s been a heated debate recently between the Government and the Opposition parties about who is going to be cutting spending and who isn’t. For some reason both parties seem to think we, the people, are pretty thick and cannot see through the spin, massaging of figures and fibs being told. Well, some breaking news for the Gordon and Dave Show; we know exactly what is going on, we know exactly what is going to happen soon (cut, cut, cut) and we know exactly who is going to get the sh*t end of the stick (we, the people). But here’s the rub; are cuts always a bad thing? No, is the answer. There are doubtless vast areas of government ripe for efficiency savings and this week I have yet again been the debatable beneficiary of government waste. I refer to the Child Tax Credit System of Wasting Tax Payers' Money. This week my wife and I independently, but on the same day received a large bulky envelope through the door, marked with the foreboding HM Revenues and Customs logo. Each envelope contained yet another letter from the Child Tax Credit people telling each of us, individually, we were no longer entitled to child tax credits. Not surprising really as our “children” are now 23 and 19 years old and should be standing on their own two feet. Accompanying each letter was a thirty page A4 booklet explaining everything one needs to know about the child tax credit system, a tome of such soporific intensity it would cure the most chronic insomniac of their malady. “So what?”, you say, “HMRC has kindly explained you are no longer entitled”. Well, the problem here is that this is at least the third time HMRC have told us we are no longer entitled to CTCs, and each time we are told another tree dies to supply us with an information booklet we don’t read. So this time, I thought a letter was required, and it has been sent with the faintest glimmer of hope that it will be read by a human being of sufficient intelligence to note its contents and pass it on to another human being who has the power and authority to initiate change to this astonishingly complex, expensive and wasteful system:

Dear Sir

Re: Tax Credits – Annual Review for year ending 05/04/2009

You wrote to us on 6th June 2009 (with 30 page notes pack-in duplicate) regarding the annual review for year ended 5 Apr 09. You have correctly stated in Step A that we are not responsible for any qualifying children or young people.

You wrote to us on 6th August 2007 correctly stating that the tax credit award for period to 5th April 08 was zero.

You wrote to us on 11 October 2007 correctly stating that the tax credit award for period to 5th April 08 was zero.

Thank you. We get the message.

Should our situation change we will notify you. However, you may assume, with certainty nearing 100% that our situation is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. You may therefore safely stop telling us we are no longer eligible for tax credits and save the tax payer a bit of money.

Yours faithfully...

I live in hope….

4 June 2009

Slow News Stories for Stock Photographers

Events worthy of exposure in major periodicals have a very short half life. A few days to a week is the rule of thumb and stock photographers relying on agencies to market their work generally cannot respond quickly enough to fulfill the media's need for current news images. It is also unlikely to be economically viable to get to a breaking news event when the resulting pictures, which have a short life span, have been taken on a purely speculative basis.

However, there are plenty of opportunities for stock photographers serving the secondary editorial market to supply topical news images but this requires a bit of creative thinking. There are some stories which come around every so often; history does repeat itself and not just over a generational time scale, but every year or every few months. These are the slow news stories which lend themselves to a more relaxed approach from the illustrative photographer, and I find all it takes is a little anticipation or identification of the repetitive events. In the current recession the economy, business and personal finance is particularly high on my agenda. As a stock photographer one could do worse than having one good image of every FTSE 100 company logo; sooner or later every company
will hit the headlines for good or bad reasons and newspapers and periodicals will need an image to illustrate their news story.

Recently I read a story on the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) web site about pub closures. This isn't a new story, it's ongoing; in May 2008 the British Beer and Pub Association reported in a news release that pub closures had increased to 27 per week, seven times faster than in 2006. CAMRA's story reported in Jan 2009 that pub closures were at a record of 39 per week. This is one of those slow news stories ripe for stock photography.

So when I saw a local pub
which had been boarded up and with a large "for sale" sign on the old sign post, all I needed was a sunny day, a blue sky and a bit of imaginative composition. The result (left) taken in January 2009 says it all, was used last month in a national newspaper.