At the moment I am sitting out on the patio with a warm southern breeze blowing through the yard. The temperatures are up and down here in Texas, evidence of the usual spring weather that is on the way. While the trees are still sparse and working on filling in this seemed like a good time to sit and write a few things that have been bouncing around inside my head.
It would appear I am a crochety old man who is not averse to speaking his mind. In today’s woke, politically correct, easily offended world, there appears to be no lack of opportunities to be offensive when calling out the obvious moronic actions of others. In a term some will recognize, this is a target rich environment.
And while some would call me angry as opposed to crochety I personally prefer eccentric with a very low tolerance for bullshit. And nowadays it is mostly bullshit. And of course, PTSD can really add to the lack of patience as well.
I have been doing a great deal of thinking and working with photography lately and a couple of items that have been floating around have come to the surface. I have original prints from some well know photographers on a wall in my spare bedroom. Images from Barnbaum, Sexton, Gordon and Tal, with books by various photographers elsewhere. I can remember sitting in multiple workshops over the years and being encouraged to collect prints from other photographers as a means to increase and broaden my photographic outlook.
As I was standing and comparing prints by these photographers for other reasons, one thing that came to mind was, these guys are in it for the money. Well duh! What I’m referring to is the manipulative and blatant marketing to sell their images to the workshop participants under the guise of furthering the arts. More like lining their pockets with some more of our money. I mean there have really only been two images I purchased because I was moved by the images. And those I do not regret having added to my collection.
But as I contemplated this obvious marketing ploy to get more money from the captured audience who has already paid a great deal of money to be at your event and so is obviously sold on your expertise, this is the perfect opportunity to pitch the selling of your wares. Books, DVDs, prints and whatever product the artist has to sell. And at a discount since you are at the workshop or paid event. And of course, the pitch to have a master photographer’s image you can refer too while growing in the art.
Fine, I get it, you are an artist in the medium of photography and have to make a living like any other artist in the world. But here is my issue with this ploy. Have any of these “masters” ever reciprocated and purchased images from those who have attended the workshop? Certainly those who are just starting off on the long and difficult path of an artist do not have anything that really speaks out yet. I’m going to have to say an unequivocal, NO!
Looking at my own work I know at the early workshops I attended I was still growing and learning. I felt my images were awesome but not to others at that point in my growth as an artist. But in the last several years I have attended workshops more for the technical aspects of working in digital not in how to find and create a print. I was asked by all of the instructors of a recent workshop why I was there. They informed my they did not really have anything to share, as my work was so good. I told them I was there to rub shoulders with others and again to learn how to better create a digital print.
With all of that being said, and the instructors having seen my work, did any of them say, “Hey John, I would really like to add this print to my collection. Can we talk?” I would have been glad to share my work with them. But FUCK NO they don’t collect student art. Workshops have become a racket.
I backed out of and cancelled participation in two workshops here in the last few years. One was because of the draconian measures the organizers felt they needed to impose due to the Chinese flu. In my opinion it was way over the top. I’m not averse to protecting people and their health, but the wearing of a mask while in the field and yards apart from another participant was too much. I had to call bullshit on that one.
Another workshop which is very popular because of the location caused me to do some thinking about what my goals were in attending. It was mainly to go to the locations offered by the workshop. But an image caught my eye and caused me to reevaluate my decision to attend. The image showed previous workshop participants clustered on a small rise, cameras pointed at the selected landscape feature of the moment, obviously clicking away and capturing the image of a lifetime.
When I saw that I decided this was not for me. I do understand there are places with lighting and weather that will cause the group to make images and they will not be the same as we all have a unique perspective. But as I looked at the resulting images from people at the workshop, they started looking the same. Certainly, I would have been exposed to some new photo instructors/artists but I could not spend the money to walk to an overlook with a view and share it with a herd. That is not who I am and not where I am as an artist.
So I guess my ranting as an eccentric artist with a firm grasp of who I am and how I like to work is done here. This is not to say I would not go to a workshop again. I certainly enjoy the energy of the participants and the new insights I am exposed to that challenges my way of seeing and thinking. And I will go to an artists website to make purchases of images if I desire to add to my photo collection. I definitely will not be adding to my collection due to the pitch to collect for whatever the reason espoused by the purveyor of said workshop.
Oh, and in closing I just wanted to say I do have prints, calendars, chap books and books available for purchase. LOL!