The Fiduciary F-Stop

I recently asked a question on social media about professions, trades, and businesses. I wanted the know the difference between the three. As my contacts on the site are humorous and intelligent people, I got a number of good answers. Some skirted around the question and some used it as a conversational hockey puck ( He shoots! He scores! Eh? ). And one chap really helped – he attached the term fiduciary to the idea of a profession.

The definition of it in law involves trust – financial responsibility between a trustee and beneficiary or depending for value upon security bonds or reputation. Basically a matter of confidence – but I suspect that for a number of professions there is a degree of enforcement that can be applied. In short – do the right thing and remain in a position of honour and trust  – do the wrong thing and be removed from that position.

I was once engaged in an occupation that referred to itself as a profession, and this definition seems to come pretty close – there was an act of state parliament that regulated who could enter the profession and how they were commanded to behave. There were injunctions against alcoholism, adultery, and advertising, with punishments if detected. People could be expelled formally from the profession.

I hasten to add that there were few of these expulsions, though. The closest run-in I ever had with the board was a letter complaining that I had referred to my dental clinic in Maylands as Maylands Dental Clinic. It was not so much the listing as the not asking permission to list it. I wrote a grovelling letter of apology and the basilisk eye was turned elsewhere.

In the photography game…see how I cleverly avoided the choice of profession, trade or business there…I have established a small studio called Dick Stein’s Little Studio and so far no threatening letters have been received. I took the step a decade ago of putting an advertisement block in the Yellow Pages for one year – and nothing eventuated. Indeed I did not get a single job from that advertisement, and have avoided the Yellow Pages ever since. I suspect I am such small beans in such a large bean pot that I will never be officially noticed.

Am I a professional? Well, from a legal point of view, probably not. I take money for the photos and writing that I do, and I declare it to the Australian Taxation Office and pay tax, so that means I am compliant with the law. I do not fire anti-tank guns from the bushes outside the front of the studio either, so that must be a good mark for me as well. But the point is I am no more or less moral in my dealings with the public than the chap who sells water pumps in a shop or the woman who operates a coffee bar. We all do the right thing or the general commercial laws are invoked against us.

Are other people in the photography lurk ( another evasion… ) professionals? Does putting ” Professional ” on their business card or being a member of  AIPP make them a professional? I’m tending to think not. As there is no parliamentary act governing photography – save the various forms of commercial law or the enforceable injunctions against photographing military installations – they are thrown back to the position of all the rest of us. Their skills may be far better and their successes far greater – and bless them for it – but as there is no board, save their own council, to praise – and no mechanism to legally scold – they are really operating in actuality as trades or business people.

Note: the law about advertising was changed a long time ago. You’re still not supposed to be drunk or naked while doing a scale and clean, though…




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