Ian MacDonald, on giving a creative friend some advice in a time of doubt:
Success is really an iceberg. On the surface you see the rewards and accolades, but underneath it is nothing but blood, sweat, failure, hard work, frustration, set backs, disappointment, and resistance.
I would argue that buying even 5 great street photography books will do more for your photography than any lens out there would. And assuming that each photo-book was $50, that would cost $250. That is a small fraction of any lens that you could purchase out there.
Good reminder this weekend, when you have some time for reading. And for the holiday season, when those Amazon gift cards come rolling in.
I was invited to give a talk at the Jackson Civic Art Association Tuesday night on my still life photography: what was my thinking, what were my techniques, etc. It was also a how-to for other artists to think about making their own still life paintings, drawings, or photos.
It’s a good way to really think about your own projects. If you have to explain the whole thing, from idea to execution, you get really intimate with your process. I feel like the talk was good for me and helpful for them.
And many of the group members did come up and compliment me on my presentation. “I really appreciate the length of your talk,” one lady told me. “Some people are up there for hours going on and on about technique.”
That’s another thing: can you show and tell in an efficient time frame?
In another life, I was probably a teacher. Coworkers at my last job nicknamed me “Professor Dave” because of my presentation style, and my love for getting up on a whiteboard and scribbling out thoughts and ideas. I see talks like the one I gave Tuesday as part lesson, part performance. It’s fun for me.
It was also fun to break down my inspirations, thinking, and planning during the still life project.
What if we finally thought about breaking out of that narrow little world I call “photoland”? If were really serious about it, that would not entail giving up all of the things we believe in so dearly. But it would mean thinking about a lot of them a bit differently. You don’t like Humans of New York? Well, try to do a site that does the same thing, but better (whatever your idea of “better” might be).
Colberg’s points are that (a) photographers might want to keep their art world exclusive (“Do photobooks, for example, always have to be luxury objects?” he asks), and that (b) nothing interesting comes from catering to that exclusive world.
If there’s any solace in this election, it’s that struggle and angst breed great art.
From World War I (Modernism!) to the Vietnam War period (Woodstock!), when people are upset, they tend to make great things. Heck, during the George W. Bush years, a lot of people took their protest and turned it into memorable work.
Art is coping. This time, I’m sure we’ll see lots of great stuff.
Photographer Jon Wilkening is doing a 365 day project, where he offers up a print each day – and it costs whatever order it’s in. I got day number eight, so I paid $8. Day number 365 will be $365, etc.
Jon’s work is very cool. He does pinhole street photography, with interesting motion and abstract blurs. I waited for the right combination of light and colors for my print, and day eight has this lovely primary color scheme going on.
This time last year, I was knee-deep in working on my documentary, Albion Anagama.
I learned a lot during the making of that film – about ceramics, and artistic process, and teamwork.
I also learned the value of a dedicated space to do creative work. In this instance, Ken built a fabulous studio on the outskirts of Albion, Michigan, complete with kilns and a garden and lots of space. He and his team had just about everything they needed to do work right there, from music to materials.
The idea of a dedicated work area appeals to me. In my recent house-hunting sojourns, it’s fun to see a basement workshop, or a dark room custom built for a film photographer. Even a simple office works.
At work, I find that taking my laptop and going somewhere fresh and new is a good kick in the butt to get work done. It’s not dedicated space, but it is a new space – and that helps me get some things accomplished.
Robert Mapplethorpe gave a lot of his work away to friends. So did Picasso (to some controversy).
These were some of the most famous artists of their time, and now their work goes for thousands of dollars. The people who loved and supported them get the benefit.
So it should be with the work we make.
My guess is that there are people in your life—family, spouses, friends, supporters—who help to make your art possible, either through emotional support or hustle. It’s certainly true for me. For my recent gallery shows, it’s always my friends and family who turn out. That support means a lot.
I feel like we should be generous with our art, especially to those who show up. A print doesn’t cost that much to make – why not gift it to someone who loves your work?
Recently, my in-laws asked if they could get a few of my still life prints to go with their dining room remodel. I gladly two photos to go with their decoration scheme, no questions asked.
I’m never going to be famous like Mapplethorpe, and my work will never sell for thousands of dollars. But even if it did, giving my work away to people I care about is the least I can do for their time and attention.