As many have pointed out, the days of photography (or illustration for that matter) being an accessible way to make a living are long gone. The reasons are varied and numerous, but they have all come together like a perfect storm:
1. Massive over-saturation of supply. Tens of thousands of new 'photographers' each year in the UK alone 2. The Internet has opened the market that is left to global competition. This means competing with providers whose cost bases are much lower than in the UK 3. The relentless march of technology means it is getting ever cheaper and easier to make decent images (for most commercial purposes). This leads to even more of points 1 and 2. 4. The internet (and the 'lets share everything' attitude it created) has led to a situation where it is virtually impossible to protect copyright. Thus images lose even more of the little monetary value they had left. 5. Many photographers have made, or are making, their living doing other things and don't care about the money - they don't have to. This depresses prices further because clients don't stop to think about the differences in provider's circumstances. 6. The cost of living in the UK, for photographers, and models is rising - but earnings potential is falling. Do the maths and see that's a path to oblivion.
There are other reasons too, but they are big ones. Of course there are still some oldies who made a name for themselves when times were different and who can still draw on 'legacy clients' (ie. clients who are not likely to ever use new people, and will eventually die off themselves). There are also the few lucky ones who manage to make it by getting to know the right people in the elite crowd of top end publishers, but that will always happen.
The real big problem I see is that although 99% of the battle hardened realists on sites like Purestorm are fully aware of everything I've said, the educational establishments in this country still keep churning out more and more photographers and other visual creative types - nothing wrong with that in itself - what is wrong is the way that they paint a totally unrealistic picture of the state of the market, and it's inevitable future, to their hopeful students. That makes me a bit angry.