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Let’s name names

June 23, 2010: The following text from Paul Curtis is in response to my editorial comments last week. Prior to Paul Curtis’ text is the relevant part of that editorial, to provide context for the response:

I was uncertain whether to laugh or be offended when Paul Curtis, executive director of PICA, last week dubbed ‘the lavatory wall of the photo industry’ [in a comment following our report on Dave Marshall receiving a Golden Tripod award from PICA. Given that we have had threats of legal action, we have since taken the story and associated comments down from the website]. Anyway, after careful consideration, I’ve settled on a slightly offended sense of bemusement – which seem to fit nicely!

I was more certain that Paul’s assertion that what’s happening in Australian photo retailing is merely a microcosm of world trends, for which no-one is responsible, is incorrect. The fact is that we have the lowest base print prices in the world. Australia is at the extreme end of world trends – but not in a good way this time. Let’s not pretend that this happened by some accident, or there was a frenzied demand from consumers for 10 cent prints (less than half of what consumers were happy to pay for prints 10 years ago.) It was a marketing strategy.

Here’s the contradiction which puts paid to the ‘Doh! The consumers made me do it’ argument: Why would Australian consumers, who for the most part don’t quibble about paying a premium for their cameras compared to some other parts of the world – suddenly demand the world’s lowest print prices?

To which Paul Curtis replied:

I am wondering Keith if you missed the point completely or was your leader this week a deliberate attempt at obfuscation? At no point did I comment on the price of prints. (Believe it or not, there are still a treasured few in this industry that can think beyond price.)

In case I did not make myself perfectly clear, I was complaining about your blog publishing anonymous and unsubstantiated venomous attacks on private individuals in the photo industry. Not just on the recent example, but previously on others, including leading retailers. You will recall I wrote to you on this subject before, although those views were never published by you.

My proposition is quite simple: when it comes to publishing comments about an individual that are a personal attack, the person making that attack against an individual should only do so if they too are prepared to be named. Is that a concept too difficult for you to grasp?

Looking through your published comments, I think I know who Robbo is! And Alan Small has the guts to put his name against his opinions…and there are others. And even if I don’t always agree with their comments, I can respect them. There was even a fellow in Tasmania that recently attacked me in another publication in what I thought was an unfair manner, but at least he had the conviction to put his name to it! I thank him for that. (I plan to buy him a beer when next we meet!)

Try getting totally anonymous remarks published in a good publication and you will not only have to furnish your name, but your street address and your phone number. And a responsible publication will call that number and check you out before publication to ensure that there is a proper reason for publishing that comment while withholding a name and address. And this is something, you, Keith Shipton, editor, have proven to not always do. I know, as I checked you out. You failed!

I am posting this here as I also note that while readers are able to comment on all news items, there is no provision to comment on your editorials! Oh dear, oh dear!

I know the risks of taking on an editor. After all, it is your media, your game and your blog and you have the last word. I am also aware that there are numerous other social media sites blogs that foster anonymous derogatory comments against named individuals. And if that is what society is now demanding, so be it. But while your policy remains unchanged, I feel no need to scribble further on your public lavatory wall.

FOOTNOTE (from Paul Curtis): I note also that although they were not signed in that capacity, in your editorial position you decided to label my comments as from the Executive Director of PICA, I feel entitled to present personal views on occasion and did not seek endorsement of these views from PICA as I had not used that title in my comments to you. However, since you have raised this, and to avoid any misunderstanding, I will seek to get the views I expressed endorsed by that industry body.


Your Comments

  • Posted By Wayne06/29/2010 04:11:17 PM

    Wow I can`t believe any comments have been made on this topic yet.

  • Posted By Fear Not…so Comment06/29/2010 03:57:42 PM

    Now we have determined where two of the the Golden Tripod legs are going…..Do we have a nomination for the the third?

  • Posted By John MacDonald Hour Photo Crows Nest06/28/2010 09:14:23 PM

    Were as mad as hell and we aint going to take it no more seems to be the feeling of most so I would like to put in my 50cent,or is that 10cent every day low special ,worth. Beginning with comments on the incredulous news that David Marshal, a person many rightly or wrongly blame for the destruction of a once lucrative industry, had won an industry award we have moved on to a spiteful round of personal comments. The first post I made on this blog , a tongue in cheek comment that Clive Peeters could get out of their financial difficulties by selling prints at 10c got a response from someone using a nickname that I had lost the plot and I should get out of the Industry. If thats the worse that happens using your own name then I have no problem with doing so. David Hocking used his real name and has received some adverse comment because of this but I have no idea who David Hocking is. But I think I know who most contributors are how use a nickname .But perhaps we old guys with poisonous ideas should take Davids advice, a solution Davids young thinking has come up with is that we get out of the industry. All we have to do is peruse the data base of potential purchasers we have for our businesses and select the most profitable deal and head off into the sun set. The truth of course is that many of us are near or beyond retirement age and have seen both our income and value of our businesses plummet over the last few years. And David if we had wanted to stick with film we would not have invested the $400.000.00 minimum we early adopters did in equipment. The situation we find ourselves in now ,whither caused by a direct marketing strategy or is the result of collateral damage from changing marketing situations, is doubly galling as most of us were passionate supporters of Fuji and felt we contributed to the success of the brand in the years when they were far from No.1.We applauded when Paul Cummings, the then head of Hanimex, predicted that Fuji would become the number one supplier of chemicals ,paper and equipment in the future, we just did not envisage it being in this way. I would like to think that contributions to The Photo Counter continue to ruffle some feathers and that we are able to express our views ,either with our own name or under a nickname, as we have over the last few weeks. So keep up the good work.

  • Posted By Tim06/26/2010 08:32:54 PM

    By the way talked to a mate of mine the other day who has a Fuji store. A guy he knows who also has a Fuji shop ran out of paper and borrowed a roll off his local Dick Smith. In the end it seemed easier to pay for the roll rather than replace it, invoices were produced, and it was cheaper by 25% !

  • Posted By Tim06/26/2010 11:26:58 AM

    Well PMA does represent the small players like us and medium sized players like Robbo. Peter Rose is on annual leave at the moment, perhaps he could give you a call when he gets back. PMA like all organisations has to constantly strive to be relevant! At least their awards seem to be well received! Well done Phil on your distinguished service award!

  • Posted By David Barnes06/26/2010 10:47:54 AM

    Thanks for that Tim…However my attitude to PMA remains, I just don`t feel they do a whole lot to represent us small players; though to be fair I am not sure what they could do. Shame about Paul, being beyond reach; I just find his comments rude.

  • Posted By Well I resign from PICA then06/25/2010 05:31:03 PM

    Is there really a David Hocking or is it Paul`s brother – in – law? Does his boss know what he thinks of him and geeze we only LOOK old -Fuji have done this to us

  • Posted By Tim06/25/2010 05:02:32 PM

    Hey David, Paul is not part of PMA, he works for PICA which is the wholesalers body. You don`t get to pay him or vote for him which is fairly obvious from his comments. You don`t get to vote for the Golden tripod award either, maybe we should set up our own `broken tripod award`! What about it Keith?

  • Posted By David Barnes06/25/2010 03:10:30 PM

    I have followed with interest the many postings on this topic, most well argued. I look forward to Photo Counter hitting my in box each week as it is topical and the comments are always worth a read (reminds me I am not on my own). I was shocked as most with Paul`s comments regarding the blog and I must thank him for helping me make a decision I have been toying with over the last 2 years. This time around I will not be renewing my membership to PMA, because from where I stand it offers me no advantage in my business life and the subscription fee could be better used elsewhere.

  • Posted By Tom06/25/2010 02:52:03 PM

    David Hocking. I am 22 and wrote comment number two. I am not poisonous nor old and detest your insinuation the older men in our industry should get out. I have been in the industry for only a short amount of time and have moved from the large CE store (the one headed by an old man) to a group of independents. I`ll give you some advice David. Listen to these old men. They are a wealth of knowledge and their business advice is sound. There ideas and thoughts on our industry are often accurate and when you need a hand or a bit of help they will be there with open minds… as long as you too open up yours.

  • Posted By Phil Gresham06/25/2010 02:08:35 PM

    Keith thank you for a forum that independents can voice their opinions without censorship, not all I agree with. We made changes years ago to not rely on the 4×6` print for our major source of revenue. In fact our byline is `more than just photos` Let the big box guys supported by the big guy fight for the low profit lines. A quality experience and repeatable great service will outlast just the lowest price. Paul, unlike yourself, I have worked for many years for the good of the photo industry and it`s associations, and like many others, without monetary reward.

  • Posted By David Hocking06/25/2010 01:28:09 PM

    I might be a bit new to this photo industry. Love photography. Seemed a good business to be in . But its a bit off putting all this poison that seems to be floating around. I am 24 and I don`t know Paul Curtis but he made his point clear here twice and it seems very simple to me. He is speaking on behalf of common decency – something some of these other old guys seem to know nothing about. and dragging up all sort of old issues from guys that sound as though they should have stuck with film. We need a few more like Paul Curtis and these poisonous people filled with so much hate should get out.

  • Posted By Paul Curtis06/25/2010 01:00:11 PM

    Hey guys, some seem to be having a little trouble with reading comprehension! And that must be my fault for not having made myself perfectly clear. So I will try again: My only issue is that I think it is poor practice to be publishing anonymous rude comments about a named individual when no editorial attempt has been made to verify who is making that comment. In the past, this has happened on this blog against both retailers and wholesalers. And that`s a shame. As for freedom of speech, I love it! In fact my record for being outspoken has long been evident. But I don`t try and stab people under the dark of anonymity! I have always put my own name to my comments and, where I have published those of others, they have all been sourced and verified. So, once again,let me say I am not talking about any photographic industry practices And I am certainly not against having a free say. But when you set yourself up as a publisher, you have a duty of care, even if you decide to withhold the name and address of a contributor, to verify the bona fides of the person making that comment.

  • Posted By Alan Small06/25/2010 10:20:41 AM

    Storm in a teacup ! Without a forum to express strong opinions on every facet of the industry they serve, this blog would be lifeless and uninteresting rag. This is a small industry in which almost everyone knows each other, and therefore the use at times of screen names is not only legitimate but probably advisable because of personal relationships. It allows people to say what they really think, otherwise you would get either no input from some people or the dreaded `darling, you look gorgeous in that dress` syndrome. It is quite different in a national newspaper or an international publication; this blog goes to the small family of the photographic industry. The editor knows who the writers are, regardless, and as personal, blasphemous or abusive attacks are not permitted, a free and open opinion is a good thing for everyone. There is nothing worse in society than the `knitting circle effect` where everyone agrees with everyone else and they are so nice to each other it makes observers want to stand in the middle of the road. In taking the high moral ground, as some commentators are prone to, it is often a subterfuge to prevent legitimate and reasoned comment on things that affect peoples` lives, and indeed, lifelihoods. This process can be a subtle form of bullying or intimidation. It is practised as an art form in politics and large corporations. Lack of honest, forthright and open opinions stunts the growth of society. Long live free speech !!

  • Posted By John Maple/Mapes06/25/2010 09:28:03 AM

    Keith we thank you for a forum to express our views..Paul its about time you got out of the cabin with your red wine and feel the wind in your face and smell some fresh air.I totaly agree with all comments expressed.Its to late to save this industry but perhaps other industries under fire could learn from these blogs on ways to unite their customers..not destroy them. Paul as you have made this personal let me tell you a story as to why this industry is in trouble . We were spending between 20-30 grand per month with Fuji when we were dealing with them.When they went to the CE channel we could not justify the pricing of paper and chem we were losing money instead of getting rid of staff we chose to use an alternative supplier.Guess what!!! only ONE Fuji employee ever asked why we were not spending any monies with them..This indicated to us they were no longer interested in our business..(we had bought several machines from them as well as product in fact we were told we were one of Victorias leading money spenders)We have suvived over 25 years not had any time off for at least 5 years..Paul I bet you enjoy your vacantion time and I`m sure Dave does also…We are not idiots mineless people we are the true believers with a passion for photography who have help the likes of yourself Dave and other wholesalers enjoy such a good life.The boys club deserted us M&D`s at our hour of need and that my friend is called blue suiting.Keith keep up the good work bringing issues to the table for comment..

  • Posted By Stuart Holmes – IPS06/25/2010 09:27:51 AM

    Like other rational people I understand that we live in a democracy and that along with freedom of speech we have the ability to place secret ballot on issues concerning all. In this case Paul, I feel that you are being a little too precious about the `elephant in the corner of the room` pricing strategy, It`s obvious to all that this industry is being deliberately `driven to the bottom` by the `Big Boys`. It was for these reasons that Rob Voysey and I started Independent Photographic Supplies several years ago – to give the Independent Photo Specialty market a fair non competing ally. Hopefully more people will find their voices and step up and have their say. Good on you Keith and Photo Counter!

  • Posted By Brian Kearney06/25/2010 09:04:10 AM

    New Zealand has seen prices as low as 5 cents for a 6×4. 10 cents is common and many consumers now wait for the price wars between the members of the CE channel before they think of printing. We have the CE channel canabalizing itself here as they fight for share just 200 metres apart. They use the same gear and consumables. We have the supplier recommending prices for photo services to new CE entrants. Passport photos for NZ$9.98. Every profitable service is being eroded by the big boys who are frantic for foot traffic and prepared to thrash our complete product portfolio for ther short term gain / survival. New profit lines (photobook etc) are discounted from the start so unless it says 50% off or Free,consumers are conditioned to wait. They know we are desperate. Come to think of it, I have a $5.00 credit on a photofinishing account that I have never used as yet another big player tries to entice me to their budget service. Bugger they have me on their database! I use discounted 6x4s to print fliers promoting the services of specialty retailers. Works a treat. The coffee industry got it right – no one talks of price there!

  • Posted By Kevin06/24/2010 10:55:04 PM

    I agree with all the comments posted below. Paul, where are you coming from? If this was a newspaper, would you attack the editor just because you didn`t agree with what was written in the Letters to the Editor page? Paul, don`y you realise the the whole internet is full of commenting in this way and most of the operators of these sites know who these people are. Even talk back radio has the person`s phone number! Paul, you seem to be complaining more about the fact that people have had the audacity to mention one person in PICA and for singling him out as someone who is mostly responsible for the decline in the photo processing industry. In other industry publications, I have tried to make comments in relation to pricing in the past but have been refused publication as `it would upset the advertisers`. Is this democracy? Is this free speech? Paul, your comment that, and I quote, `there are still a treasured few in this industry that can think beyond price` what does that mean? The price of something is the thing that pays for the rent, the processor, the paper and chemistry, the wages and God hope, some profit. Paul, answer me one question. If the CE channel are selling prints less than the cost of a piece of 6×4 photo paper to buy, how do any of us survive? And that`s the Alan `s and Robbo`s etc of the industry not just the mums and dads stores. And if you agree that the CE channel can do it because they are offsetting their costs from other items, explain to all of us how that benefits the photo industry in the long run? Have the guts to tell us all this instead of having a go at Keith for just providing an outlet for expressing our feelings. Otherwise PICA should just fold up it`s chairs and quit because they will not be relevant any more. I`m sure Keith would supply you my name and email if you wish to contact me, but from me previous posts most people know who I am anyway.

  • Posted By ROB HEIM JPI06/24/2010 07:44:25 PM

    I read with interest Paul Curtis` outrage. A man who has enjoyed the rewards of PICA and the Fuji ( Hanimex) organization for over twenty years. At one time Paul, you were a popular publisher who started a retailer organization called, the Photo Retailers Ass. I was one of the founding members, over thirty years ago. At that time you were concerned about the way retailers were being treated by wholesalers. The group was intended to improve the lot of those, on hindsight, highly profitable retailers. This group, in due course, accepted a takeover by the US based PMA. At this point you through your lot in with the wholesalers, who for many, many years excluded retailers from information that would have helped them grow their business`. For you to now express concern that the handfull of remaining retailers, over 2000 have closed their doors, have the courage to express their views is amazing. Thank you Keith for offering an opportunity for these retailers an outlet for their views. By the way, Paul, I am pleased to hear you have found your wallet. Having bought you at least one fine meal in the past, I have never seen it and I hope you keep your promise to the retailer concerned. I think you can more than afford it.

  • Posted By John Ford06/24/2010 07:12:41 PM

    I think Paul you might be missing the point a bit in your insulting and inflamatory comments. The award may be fully deserved- I don`t know enough to comment but there are a number of people who WERE upset by it- all the people who commented apart from Paul who enabled it. This is a very insular industry and it becomes more so every day so for people to say what they think in public is hard. They have to deal with these big companies who hold a lot of power- `it is their game and they too have the last word` The issue of how the photo industry has lost to the CE channel over the years has been the topic of conversation outside the conference room at PMA but never addressed. The dwindling number of conference attendees should be setting alarm bells for PICA and PMA. The majority who attend seem to be photo specialist who are – or were-passionate about our industry. I suggest that most of them believe that Harvey`s and others are getting a better deal than the specialist- that there is no level playing field-It might not be true but it is the perception and it creates the sort of feeling expressed on this forum by real people who are hurting. I congratulate Robbo who tried at the conference to get Jeff Kennett to address the issue of taking on the CE channel- unfortunatly Jeff is yet to get back to us on that. What I am saying in no way suggests that Fuji -or Dave-is the sole reason things are so hard. But the sanctimonius aside that thinking about more than price is the answer totally negates the reality of facing the customer who thinks that the right price for a print is half your cost. Try and tell the so-savvy -A -Current- Affair/TDT -Harvey -add- viewing deciple that you are more expensive because you are better. Good luck. Of course we all try new things and buy the latest bit of machinery and move into bigger shops to house it all and work harder and longer and market ourselves as the experts and do everything we learn at PMA and elswhere. So we forget the 6×4 and run it as a loss. then invest in photo books and mark them down, get more kiosks. then get a big printer and mark that down too. And we make books and mugs and -on it goes. Menwhile we act as a showroom and library of (free) knowledge for hardware. You think price is`t driving the industry? The race to the bottom is lunacy. My belief is that Gerry won`t rest till we are all gone. Is PICA preparing for that? Rather than denigrate the fact that people are not prepared to put their name to their concern- justified or not -why not address the concern. If there is no basis for fear and loathing then let us know. If things are great and there is a misguided mindset then let`s put the industry back on a more positive path. You are the industry leaders- Lead us out of here while there`s still someone to lead. John Ford 0428953625

  • Posted By Tim06/24/2010 06:45:37 PM

    I guess I largely agree with what you are saying here Paul in that contributors to an industry newsletter should be more accountable than contributors to some inane blog. I would hope that Keith has that covered when he asks for email addresses. Obviously that needs some tightening up! He certainly knows who I am when I email him. Having said that I did read the posts from the story in question and the significant issue is that the award is a controversial one and you and your body need to take that on board. The print prices in Australia are reportedly the cheapest in the world. Many of the smaller dealers in Australia (and ex dealers) find a common denominator in the supplier of paper, chemistry and processing machines to the retailers of cheap prints and that is the firm who your award winner represents. So there is some angst. As I say, a controversial award this time!

  • Posted By Tom06/24/2010 06:30:13 PM

    Hi, my name is Tom. (see what I did there). I work in this industry and would like to throw my support behind Keith Shipton and this `good publication.` Paul, our industry is spinning, spinning, spinning around in the drain. The big two have all but quashed our industry, diminishing our market share to the point that it would be barely recognisable on a pie graph. You will think that me saying this is irrelevant to your article but I implore to read on. This publication is a place for industry members to come together and share their views. Sometimes, those views will differ to the views of yours and possibly our employers. For the protection of free and open debate/conversation and the protection of our workplaces and our jobs we would prefer to remain anonymous. Anonymity is important in this situation. We want to be able to protect our views and be able to express them in a forum without recourse. The reaction to the article about Dave`s golden tripod award has much to do with the popular belief that he had a part in bringing about the dire situation faced by many of the smaller independent mum and dad retailers. Although, this may be untrue and unfounded, it is their view and in the spirit of freely expressing those views people wish to remain anonymous. Paul, if this is the lavatory wall, then your article above has left a huge stain. You are undermining the freedom of the people to express their views and remain anonymous. You are telling us to sit down and shut up and get on with the job. Something we do on a daily basis. So Keith, good job! Your publication is great and the provision of a free and open public forum is welcome. Paul, I mean no personal attack on you and I`m sorry if you think that. I am merely trying to express my view as you did yours. And my view is that this is not a lavatory wall, and that the free and anonymous exchange of ideas and thoughts is needed.

  • Posted By Rob Olson06/24/2010 06:02:20 PM

    Paul, I think you miss the point. There are a lot of misgivings about what the photo-processing industry and it`s suppliers have become. For the best part of thirty years it was an Industry that enjoyed a healthy and profitable reputation. Now it is experiencing a total decline that has yet to reach it`s nadir. Many former operators have lost a lot of their savings and super. They will be reliant on the Government to see out their days. It can`t be said that Dave Marshal helped his loyal customers over the years, his marketing ploys contibuted inevitably to their collective decline. Thankfully we have a forum to voice our views. Onya Keith.

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