black and white

Organic Growth

Promoting Your Project

Ask anyone who’s had to promote a project – a book, a gallery showing, a performance – and they’ll probably tell you how exhausting it can feel. Especially if the project is close to their heart, and especially if the person tends toward introversion.

It feels like you put your heart and effort into something, and then you have to put your heart and effort into making sure enough people (a) care and (b) hear about it to be interested. Yelling is tiring, even when it’s about yourself.

Some people are pretty good at this. But when I think about it, usually those folks are speaking to a big enough audience that cares. They hit (a) and (b) from above every time they promote something.

My projects started small: a portrait project here, a documentary there, each with a modest built-in audience. They cared. Over time, the number of people who knew about me grew.

Organic growth means taking the long view. Person by person, project by project, you’re increasing the number of people who know what you do. It takes patience, and planning, and a bit of humility. But I love the process.

Dampen your expectations on the first few projects, because it’s going to take time to reach people that care. Start making stuff that people might have an interest in (that’s the first part) so that, for the next project, they’ll hear about it (the second part). Each time might just get easier.

On Ornery Artists

On Ornery Artists

There’s something noble about being the “ornery artist.” The one who switches it up when he or she shouldn’t. The one who you can’t pin down. The one who avoids fame and publicity.

As I walked around the Ann Arbor Art Fair on Thursday, especially looking at the photography booths, I couldn’t help but notice how similar they all were: landscapes, sunsets, flowers, bodies of water, animals, HDR (blah!).

Art fair artists are there to sell things, I get it. It’s hard to be ornery and sell in mass quantities.

For me, it’s more fun to root for the curmudgeon.

Fail In Private


Failing In Public

Here’s the thing about failed projects:

It’s fine to start something, and give up after you begin – midway, almost done, whatever. Sometimes things don’t work out.

I’ve done that quite a few times. A new project will pop into my head, and I’ll start on it, but then I give up. Lack of interest, lack of time, whatever.

The trouble starts when you share a project you haven’t thought through to completion. You make a big announcement, “Hey! I’m doing a thing!” You share the thing. Everyone’s excited.

And then? Crickets.

People that follow your work are left in the lurch. Nothing more comes of your big project after that first big thing, or the announcement. Do that a few times, and people start to question your credibility.

Maybe it’s better to fail in private. Then you’re only disappointing yourself.

Paid Stuff and Fun Stuff

Paid Stuff vs Free Stuff

Working on personal projects is something I still try to do, it’s very important to me. I also believe it plays an important part in developing your own style, staying creatively motivated, exploring new ideas and learning new things…I try hard to produce personal projects fairly regularly, even when I’m busy with actual work. I try to produce and post something usually once or twice a week.

GIF artist Al Boardman talks about personal projects in a way a lot of artists do: It’s important to do the fun stuff and the paid stuff.

The paid stuff keeps the lights on, but the personal stuff keeps you, you.

And it’s usually the personal work that makes people sit up, take notice, and ask if you’re for hire.

While There’s Still Time

Go make something beautiful.

There’s so much ugliness on display in the world lately.

Our oceans are dying. Our neighbors and protectors are dying. Political compromise is dying. Common sense seems to be dying.

It’s enough to make you think about building that bunker out in the backyard and waiting the whole thing out.

Artists, musicians, religious leaders, and poets will help us try to make sense of it all, over time. In the meantime, there are photographers on the front lines of these terrible events, witnessing first-hand the terrible things that humans do to each other.

As they’re doing that, try to get out and capture something beautiful, while there’s still time. While it’s still there.

Other Art

Check out other art other than your own.

If you’re a photographer, do you only check out other photographers’ work? Is there value in digging into architecture, say, or sculpture?

I follow lots of photographers whose work I enjoy. Usually, their work is so different from mine. Lately, I’m trying to follow other artists, too, just to get a broad view of the creative world. Photography is great, but so is music, dance, painting, film.

Artists have a lot to learn from each other.

Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond your own artistic corner of the world.

On Black and White


On Monochrome

Black and white rarely appeals to me.

But if I’m going to make this daily blogging stuff a thing, why not try another experiment? Something I rarely do?

We’re going all monochrome.

Call it another challenge. Color photography appeals to me. I respect black and white photography, especially using the magic of film. But I see the world in color, literally and artistically.

So let’s switch it up, just for fun. Nothing but monochrome.