After the "Two Lens Kit" posts in May, someone asked me what lens I'd buy if I won the lottery.
The answer is that you don't need to win the lottery to buy a nice lens. I have plenty of perfectly good lenses already.
Some people say the lottery is a tax for people who suck at statistics, but I'm of the opinion that one lottery ticket is a great product at a great price. At only a buck, one ticket increases your chances of winning almost infinitely, because you make a binary switch—you go from having no chance to having a chance. The only really poor deal where the lottery is concerned is anything more than one ticket. I saw a calculation not long ago that if you invested $200 a week in lottery tickets, statistically your mean time before winning would be 640 years. I don't have that much money to spend. I also don't have that much time, personally.
And as for the "product," what you're really buying is not technically what they're selling. What you get for your buck is a few hours' worth of creative daydreaming.
Like most people, I long ago worked out what I'd do if I won. I wouldn't buy cars and houses and boats and planes. It would be way too much work to maintain a "rich and famous" lifestyle. I wouldn't be bothered.
What I'd do is be Roy Stryker.
I've wanted to be Roy Stryker almost since I was a kid. Stryker was an economist who was the head of the Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration of the U.S. government during the Great Depression. The RA eventually became the Farm Security Administration, and Stryker became head of the Historical Division. His real contribution was that he developed and managed the photography unit. He got to hire photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans and send them out to document conditions in the country.
That's what I'd do. I'd hire shooters, picture editors, and support techs. I'd train and direct the photographers, send them out into the field, and direct and manage the organization and editing of the work they did. The final presentation would be in the form of books, with the rights to the pictures eventually devolving back to the photographers.
I know exactly—I mean exactly—just how I'd do just about everything. It's what I daydream about every time I buy a lottery ticket, which I probably do four or five times a year, so I've imagined every little detail, the methods, the budget, even some of the shooters I'd try to hire. Hey, we all have our daydreams, right?
The FSA photographs, now in the Library of Congress, are one of the great projects in the history of photography. Many of them can be seen online, but the best way to see them is to go to the Prints and Photographs Division Reading Room in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress in Washington. It's at 101 Independence Avenue SE, room 339. There, in row upon row of old filing cabinets, you can see vintage prints drymounted to cardboard cards. You're allowed to open the cabinets and flip through the cards. I've been through all of them, a major odyssey that took multiple visits (although that was back when they were in the Jefferson Annex).
Realistically speaking, nothing like it will ever be done again. Unless I win the lottery, that is.
I just looked it up, and the Wisconsin Lottery is something called the "Powerball." The prize for tonight's drawing is $134 million dollars, which is actually far more than I'd need. I might buy a ticket. Just one. For a buck, it will let me be Roy Stryker for a few more hours. A dollar for such a pleasant daydream is a good deal, if you ask me.
P.S. I've written about this before, so if I repeat myself please pardon me if I repeat myself.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.