The universe seems to be trying to tell me something today. I have been working hard (ok – really, really, really hard) on getting my photography career going and today I got some news that means I have to wait a little longer. So I was in a local art supply spending more money on supplies for my portfolio, when a very nice woman approached me and asked me, (as I had bag in hand) if I had just come from Alkit. I won’t bore with the specifics, but it turns out she had another career and saved up & quit to try and figure out the photo thing. At one point she asked me straight out, “Can you support yourself doing fine-art photography?” She had decided that being a professional photographer was not for her, that by doing it for a job, her love of it would be destroyed. It struck a chord with me in many ways.
Somehow, I am just getting around to reading John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing.” I am up to the chapter on oil painting and the rise of art as commerce. In it he talks about the multiple function of the oil painting, that they are objects depicting objects. And how the rise of the middle class created the art market we have today. Berger says: “What are these paintings? Before they are anything else, they are objects which can be bought and sold. Unique objects. A patron cannot be surrounded by music or poems in the same way as he is surrounded by his pictures ”
As an artist today, you cannot escape the reality that your work must be marketable. If you want to be able to make work, you the need support of market. You need to earn a living from commissions and from selling work at shows. Or you must be lucky enough to have a large trust fund, or find a job that will allow you freedom and time to do your work. I think these are not easy choices. I know that my work thus far has all been spurred by desires within me to confront and explore an issue that incredibly important to me. Making personal work for any other motive seems certain create more banal, mediocre and uninspiring work. I know it’s a bad sign when PDN magazine devotes an issue to breaking into the fine-art industry. I’ll leave up it to John Baldessari to sum up: