Last night I took down my photography at Vic's. Thank you to the entire Vic's crew who's generosity in giving me space to display my work for a month was tremendous (complete "thank yous" at the bottom of this post).
What an amazing experience!
Art. I've had an intensely long struggle with this word. Of course, the understanding of the word is akin to trying to understand the meaning of life. The understanding, if one can come to one at all, comes from a never-ending relationship with beauty. I'm still working on my definition of "art," but I generally go with something around art being an attempt to bring something in the minds' eye, to life for others to witness and interpret. I'm undecided on whether or not "art" can exist if only its creator witnesses it. "Does a tree falling alone in the woods make a sound" kind of stuff.
I've struggled with whether or not photography can be art. My struggle is over thanks to this experience and discussions and perspective from people I consider "artists." Photography can be art for sure. It's art when the photographer can get something unique and powerful and subtle to be seen by the viewer. After this experience, I consider myself an artist. It feels so cool to say that. The acceptance came on the first day while I was hanging my work. Someone asked "are you the artist?" "I guess so" I replied.
The "show" wasn't about revenue, it was about taking a risk in putting myself out into the real world from an artistic standpoint. I spent a ton having everything printed and mounted. I'm sure what I did could've been closely replicated for probably half the cost if one were diligent and shopped around and cut a couple of corners. I didn't post any pricing information, though everything was for sale. Each piece's placard had "emailaddress for inquiries" on it. Over the course of a month, two people reached out inquiring about specific pieces; they wanted pricing info. In Salesforce speak (no, I didn't actually use Salesforce), one of the deals is Closed-Won, and the other is Qualified; "almost there."
I grappled with how to price things. I still have no clue how to do so. The algorithm I used to price was "a little more than cost to produce the physical object." I didn't take into account some abstract notion of demand, or quality of the shot, or the costs that went into actually taking the shot. I prioritized getting my work into someone else's life; onto their wall. I wasn't going to give things away for free though.
Even if you did the budget version of my production, and used my lame pricing model (which I don't advise), you'd be hard pressed to make a living doing one-at-a-time cafe shows. You'd need to play with the simultaneous-shows vector, and/or the price vector, to "get the money right."
The experience has been deeply inspiring. The number of times during setup and teardown that I was approached with versions of heartfelt "this is beautiful work," deeply impacted me. Touching someone with my art evokes an intense motivating feeling; a deeply connecting feeling.
Several times while just sitting and having coffee in the cafe people approached me asking if I was the artist. I have no idea how they knew me; I was just being a random customer and not interacting with the photographs in any way.
As I was leaving Vic's last night, the barista went out of his way to tell me about how many compliments and discussions the show had evoked from customers, and how the staff was going to miss the installation.
Online vs. Offline
I've been posting pics online in various forms since the dawn of digital photography. The online "social" feedback loops for ego stroking and means for expression are amazing. However, there is nothing like shaking the hand of someone you touched with your art, while standing in front of it and admiring it together. The experience was a neat reminder of the necessity of "real-life" interaction; I've missed that. Speaking of "real-life" interaction, a friend posted this powerful short film about human connection in the future.
Thank you to everyone that complimented my efforts. Thank you to Vic's for letting me show my work. Thank you to Photo Craft for the awesome printing and mounting service (specifically Claire who helped me accept, and take on, the challenges of translating digital photography to print (not at all easy)). Thank you to my friends and family who took time out of their day to go see my show. Thank you to the folks that bought my work.
Thank you to everyone who provided me feedback, and put up with my dragging a camera everywhere. Particular thanks to you if you patiently waited for me to "get the shot."
Thank you for teaching, guiding, inspiring, encouraging, and motivating me. You've given me one of the greatest gifts of my life.