Caught in a Dilemma 2

In Caught in a Dilemma? I outlined my case: that credentials, education and experience have little relevance in today's world of photography as an art. The table has skewed in recent years, thanks, in large part, to the Web, digital capture and social networking.

In a conversation with a colleague, a woman who has a long track record of curated exhibitions and writing about the medium, she said something about "scholarly' works. By that she meant work with teeth, with substance that held importance culturally, historically, perhaps politically, that used photographs as an expressive medium to speak to larger social issues. Think "Robert Frank"or "Walker Evans" verses someone who's popular on websites or has a social media presence.

photograph by Trey Ratcliff

I am not here to disparage Mr. Ratcliff's work (his site is here) or any others whose primary presence is on line. The amount of hits his site gets verses mine is extremely high. So what's the best way to get work seen? To share one's sensibilities? There is the tradition verses new forms of communication that span borders, language and cultural differences instantly. 

Clearly, if that is your goal, to reach thousands, to get your work seen by the masses, the online approach is the one. Start a site, write a blog and reach out to like minded people hungry for your kind of pictures.  Keep your work impactful, accessible, colorful, based on travels to exotic locations and you'll do well. You could expand this base to offer workshops that share your "knowledge". Need a gallery to show it? Not so much or perhaps this is of secondary importance. Need it collected in museums? Not likely as most museums aren't interested in this kind of work. See the dichotomy here? That which is massively popular is the work least likely to be thought of as credible by the intellectual, academic, curatorial and scholarly authorities among us. This as a concept has enough teeth to be like church verses the state, doesn't it?

Man, this field, this discipline has become obtuse, massive, convoluted and complex! What can one person (i.e. me) do about it? Nothing. Can I bring some clarity to it, some perspective based upon my rapidly advancing years? No, not even close. I'll wager that most people wandering into the gallery that shows my work will respond with more enthusiasm and perhaps open their wallets to the above over the top picture by Mt. Ratcliffe than they would to my efforts  shown below. While this is frustrating, I also find the sea changes taking place tremendously exciting, as though we are on the edge of a new frontier, boldly going where no man has gone before (to steal a phrase). Were I young I would embrace all this change and work within the medium's incredible diversity to carve out an expressive career immersed in utilizing innovation and do it with both feet. But much of being an artist is knowing what you are not, as a method by which you then know what you are. Life's like that too, isn't it? After all these years, it is safe to assume I know what I am and what I am not. I hope you do too.

For myself, I am loving where I am (except for a physical limitation here and there) and still making work that is perhaps a little less prolific but has an edge, a point, that hopefully transcends some of the more pedestrian characteristics of much of the work we see on line. 

From Blackwater Dam, NH

Oh, and by the way, we are working now on the next show of mine at 555 Gallery to open in September and it definitely will not be "rocks and trees".

So stay tuned and to Mr. Trey Ratcliff: party on, man! 

Permalink | Posted May 21, 2015