Monday, September 16, 2013

It's NOT Magic IV

Some more great responses. Here's one from Patrick from Belgium:

I understand what you are saying but why would you have your own images build around circumstances that happen outside your own free will? In other words why let other people influence your work as it is your work!

I mean isn’t it the photographer who is the artist and follows his feeling and evolves around himself trying to find his own way, rather than letting other people have an effect on your work?

Let me explain myself, my mother is a painter and has been all her life she is actually pretty famous in her area of expertise, watercolour. When I was a kid she painted winter landscapes and this sold like it was for free they were hot, and people loved them all around. I told my mom to start painting more winter landscapes this was what people wanted to see... She said I don’t want to paint what people want to see I want to follow my own road to wherever it leads because it is my road to travel.

I want to do what I like to do it is my passion not anyone else’s! I think that’s when I realised my mom was an artist.

As an artist you have to create and mould yourself like a statue that isn’t a statue straight away but it is a peace of art the artist starts to work on it. If not you will become a copy of someone else like there are so many, trying to copy Newton or Bourdin. They will never get there and even if for arguments sake lets assume that you can accomplish just that, than it still isn’t your work it’s a copy! Sure whatever happens in your life makes you, and in a way has an effect on your work but I don’t believe for a minute you have to change your work in order to get into a magazine or get more hits or likes of people on the internet.

A good friend of mine who is also a well known photographer once said on a workshop, you have to do what you like doing and stick with that let it evolve into something that you know today isn’t there yet, but it will! Keep following the road you want to lead and try to be better at it all the time don’t let anyone else influence you in any way but take in consideration what they say and use it in your own way... There are a lot of people standing behind a camera, make up artist, assistant, etc. but only the photographer decides what the spectator gets to see.

You make it happen, no magazine or very important person, who might be very important for other reasons. I am a teacher and never try to influence any student but rather try to motivate them trough there own creative possibility of thinking and let them find there own solutions as we all see the world in a different way!

Or is this just too many words...?

Patrick, I understand your concerns wholeheartedly. On one hand there is the art. On the other hand you have the validation.

You've defined art very clearly above so I am not going to repeat what you've said. Needless to say I agree with you 100%.

What is validation? Since no one lives in a complete vacuum (not even me and my cave) we must often define our work with a framework that considers others. Basically it is still important how others feel about your work.

But you ask, "Why? I thought photography was art?" Well, being a "professional" means I derive my main source of income from my craft. Simply put, without revenue I can not survive. So part of my craft requires that there is demand for my products/services or else I can not continue my pursuit. That is validation. Validation via revenue.

It's also validation via a full stomach.

The other thing about my craft is that fashion is very exclusive and very closed community. To break into fashion requires getting a fair amount of validation from people "in power". It is no mistake when I say that Anna Wintour can make anyone famous in the fashion industry by sheer mention of their name. That is validation. Validation via recognition.


Because the structure of the fashion industry is very "tall", meaning there are very few players at the top and they are all difficult to get to, becoming validated is not unlike climbing the corporate ladder. Politics is very important and playing that game properly is critical. Make enemies with the wrong people and you might end your career. Conversely being validated by key individuals could launch your career.

Yes I wrote this article about not caring about what others think about your work. But it depends on what your goals are. Most of the photographers that come to my workshops are trying to succeed in fashion photography. So to a certain extent there are "rules" we must abide by. Until of course you are so powerful that people want to brand your body odor as a fragrance.

l'eau du BO.

But I digress. My points are twofold. The first is very simply that even artists must to a certain degree care what others think. At the very least to attain "commercial success" so that they don't starve to death. My second point (that I was trying to make with the previous posts) is that too often photographers want the recognition and validation without playing politics, without taking shitty jobs, without getting yelled at, without mopping the studio floors, etc. That would be like wanting to be the middleweight MMA champion of the world without having been kicked in the nuts. Possible, but highly unlikely. The analogy holds true in many ways. After taking enough fights you know which opponents match to your strengths and which opponents match to your weaknesses. You know how to strike but you also know how NOT to get arm-barred. You learn win a decision victory even if you can't submit or knock your opponent out. You also learn how to make your fights exciting so that you can earn more per fight.

But you ask "Why? I thought it was all about winning?" Well, see there's winning and there's WINNING. If you're the best fighter (photographer) that one one has ever heard of, the world won't give two shits about you. You can't be the champion without taking out the best contenders. And you can't be a successful photographer without taking a few shots in the nuts. Metaphorically of course.

And that's the difference between you and me. I wear a cup even when I go to the supermarket. You've been going commando because you haven't been kicked in the nuts... yet.

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