Last year I grabbed a bunch of prints and tossed them out on the table and said there, welcome to my work. Alright, it was a little better than that, but you get the picture.
How things looked for Open Studios.
Wow! What a weekend. So much fun. This was only my second BOS (Beacon Open Studios), and apart from the mad dash that preparing for it always seems to be, it was all good. Even the prepping part is good because lots of work gets done on the house to my wife's eternal happiness. Sure, I am a bear to live with for a week or two, but the dining room walls get sheetrocked (last year) and then spackled, finished and painted (this year). We are figuring that next year's BOS will bring the dining room project to conclusion.
I was much more prepared this year than last. For starters, I was not carrying construction debris out the door as people were trying to come in. Everything was thoughtfully curated and hung. Last year I grabbed a bunch of prints and tossed them out on the table and said "there, welcome to my work." Alright, it was a little better than that, but you get the picture.
Last year I had 15 people come through and two hundred dollars in sales. This year between seventy and eighty people came through and I had almost one thousand dollars in sales. I am liking the trend. It's odd how the sales go. Both years I have sold work at the very beginning, as in first people through the door, and at the very end. Very little sales in between. Go figure.
I did something I think was smart because it turned out well. I made up 6" x 6" cards of my images using archival paper and ink, i.e. framable art pieces, and sold them for two dollars each. I wanted something priced at a level that anyone could afford. It takes me about an hour to print up twenty cards and the materials involved cost pennies, so I make almost forty dollars an hour off them. I won't get rich that way, but my guess is that it will be an important way to lodge my work in people's minds and it does pay for itself. A win-win situation.
Participating in Open Studios has easily been my most cost effective promotion effort to date. Mounting a solo gallery type show in other venues has not led to any sales to date and it is expensive to frame twenty to thirty photographs (though getting less so because now I have a bunch of frames that I can change out depending on conditions). It is a huge effort too.
I haven't had much success with being in gallery group shows either. I am thinking it is because I am unknown and my print prices double in the gallery context.
At any rate, Open Studios, very successful. Onward and upward...
I am not proud of the way I behaved. It was a searing experience for wife and dogs.
Tomorrow begins Beacon Open Studios, a two day extravaganza I am participating in. I did it for the first time last year. What an ordeal that was. Our dining room was the only possible place I could display photographic work. Unfortunately it was also gutted and needed to be reassembled. I was the one man construction crew. Hanging the 5/8" thick 4' x 8' sheets of wallboard on the ceiling by myself under pressure of a deadline was not fun. I am not proud of the way I behaved. It was a searing experience for wife and dogs.
My dog Augie spent a lot of time hiding upstairs. He doesn't like it when I curse. Seriously, all I have to do is utter one little "fuck me" under my breath and I hear him sneaking up the stairs to find cover. It's funny, he's a feisty dog that will fight to death over a chicken bone he finds on the street but he runs for the hills when I bark. Go figure.
The two weeks leading up to Open Studios last year were a nightmare. When the hour arrived to throw the doors open I was still carrying construction debris out of the house. I had to turn a few people away. Oh well. In spite of all that I had a good number of visitors and sold three prints.
This year the dining room is still under construction, but we are tapping, spackling and painting. I am pretty sure the paint will be dry by opening time.
I did more to promote the event this year. I made up cards and spread them around. I created a Facebook event and invited all my friends. Already as many have said they are coming as came last year. I know they won't all show up, but there will be people I have never met before. I even paid for Facebook promotion. I have seen some likes of my event from people who are not my friends, so I think it has had some impact.
I got more sophisticated this year too. I will be able to take credit cards. At least I hope I will. I haven't tested my Paypal device in a while. Add that to the to do list. Oh right, I already did.
Last year I threw out on the table whatever prints I had on hand. This year I have had time to think about it. I will be presenting photographs from the two books I am working on. Have I told you about the books? This journey started with the goal of a book. I am packaging my images and words as seasonal journals. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Solstice to equinox, equinox to solstice, times two. I wondered if I had the depth of photographic work in a three month time period to do this. I actually think I do. Here is a sampling of what will be on display in my studio. Some are also for sale online here. Shipping within the United States included. Contact me if you are interested and not in the US.
Next week I will let you know how it went.
The tentative conclusion I have come to is that all renderings of the world are, at their core, a record of some aspect of the relationship between the recorder and the conditions of space and time present during the moments of recording made for the purpose of dragging them forward into the future.
While I go about the business of making the work, submitting it and waiting for results, I am finding some time for reflection on the nature of making a photograph, or any kind of representation of the world around us for that matter.
I find myself asking the question, why do people make photographs?
The tentative conclusion I have come to is that all renderings of the world are, at their core, a record of some aspect of the relationship between the recorder and the conditions of space and time present during the moments of recording made for the purpose of dragging them forward into the future. History is the persistence of these renderings in the present moments of the days, weeks, months and years ahead, where they serve to keep the past present. With these renderings in hand, we are able to tell and illustrate stories as large as the universe and as small as sub-atomic particles and we can pass these stories and the evidence for them on to future generations.
When I choose to make a photograph, something about a present moment has caught my attention and I make a record of it so that I can carry it with me and be reminded of its relevance. I ask it to persist. To understand the image, one must begin by asking why it was important to drag a record of the particular conditions depicted forward. This is straightforward if the image is of a fellow human being. We understand the desire to keep a person alive in our minds and photographs are an excellent way to do that. It is less obvious when the image is like the one above. I am guessing that what is depicted in the photograph, a balloon, its shadow, a brick wall, a rain leader, will have little meaning to many people I might show it to. Some might find the composition and aesthetics appealing, but really, most people would rather I show them a picture of my wife or my dog. Something they can more readily relate to, something they believe tells them a bit about me.
And yet, here I am, making this image and showing it to you.
Doesn't this image flesh out something about me as a human being? And what if I assemble a collection of such images into an album (book)? Wouldn't you learn something about me by spending time with it and making an effort to understand what about the conditions depicted was important to me? Wouldn't you gain something by asking why it is I go out every day and make images like this one? Or perhaps you will think I am a little strange and maybe I am.
Through the photographs I make, I am telling the story of what I perceived in that space-time moment of which I was a part. I have preserved for reflection a piece of my attention as well as a piece of the conditions I am paying attention to. Sometimes, it is as simple as that. There is little more to the scene other than it had some particular qualities of light and object that I found interesting and wanted to preserve. The world is awash in this kind of fine grained detail. It is beautiful to behold. My equivalent of stopping and smelling the roses, which I sometimes also do.
Then there are the photographs I make that are intended to have implications beyond the moment they capture. They ask for contemplation of a larger story. They ask about the nature of time or god or the universe. Actually, it occurs to me that all of my images ask about the nature of time or god or the universe, it's just that some of them do it more self consciously than others.
I have resolved that whenever I encounter a rendering of any kind, my effort to understand it will begin by asking, why was it important to make the depicted conditions persist into the future?
I spent my days trying to concentrate on my photography and web design work with only moderate success. I spent my evenings wrapped in an alcohol cocoon, watching movies until it was time to go to bed or pick up my wife at the train station and then go to bed.
It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been distracted. I had a skin doctor’s appointment at the beginning of the month, a routine examination. I have a history of skin cancer, so I go in at least once a year. Last fall I had a small one removed, not very threatening, but I hadn’t had one in many years. I was not happy as I had come to feel better health habits and life circumstances had somehow held the danger away all this time. But as I say, it wasn’t very threatening. Squamous cell if you are into the particulars of such things. The physician's assistant and I decided on a six month intermediate check.
I arrived at the doctors office not really expecting any issues. I am pretty vigilant and hadn't noticed anything to be concerned about. In the exam room the physician's assistant (a different one this time) immediately identified two spots of concern on my back, one pre-cancerous she said, the other described as dark at one point to her nurse assistant. I was a little in shock and immediately assumed the worst. I am all doom and gloom in these situations. Results in three weeks, I was told. Great, three weeks to obsess about the end of me, I thought.
It turned out to be two and one half weeks but it was two and one half weeks of fear, obsession and depression purgatory. I spent my days trying to concentrate on my photography and web design work with only moderate success. I spent my evenings wrapped in an alcohol cocoon, watching movies until it was time to go to bed or pick up my wife at the train station and then go to bed. Sleep was a blessed relief, though it wasn’t very good most nights. And always, there was waking up in the morning and having to start the cycle of fear, obsession and depression all over again. I often found myself rocking back and forth in a self comforting way.
As getting "the call" on any given day became more and more likely, I wished it were possible to freeze time or be in a state of blissful suspended animation, with sentencing day forever postponed, yet be able to enjoy the flowers and the birds and the bees. Unfortunately, freezing time isn't yet possible and enjoying the flowers, birds and bees seems to require its forward motion. I did manage to get in some good reveries on the nature of time.
I admit it, I don’t handle my fear of death very well.
Having a daily photography and writing ritual was helpful in keeping my fear and anxiety from completely overtaking me. Even so, I had lots of death fantasies about being given six months to live, how sad it would be to leave my wife and dogs behind and the bucket list I would pursue with at least some of the money I have saved for retirement. I imagined my descent into the hell of full blown cancer, with melanoma attacking my organs and eventually, ruthlessly, shutting me down.
When it came, the call was much easier to answer than I thought it would be. And yes, everything was negative, as in there wasn't even a hint of cancer. Oh wow, really? were the first words out of my mouth. Great relief was my first emotion. What the fuck? was my second. I won’t go into my irritation with the way this was handled by the doctor's office. Suffice it to say I think I have some reason to gripe and to believe that it could have been handled in a less anxiety provoking way.
So, has the photography ball moved forward at all? In terms of being successful in anything I have submitted to this year, not so much. I am waiting to hear about three calls I answered in March. In the meantime I have been working on my new website and book concept. I am assembling my photographs into seasonal portfolios with some of my writings. My plan is to present the daily practice chronologically in book and blog format. I have uploaded two portfolios, Fall 2015 and Winter 2016, to my website. The pictures without the words. You can find words with the pictures on my Days, Weeks, Months, Years blog, Winter 2016 portfolio only right now. I am thinking I may do an e-book version as well and sell it through my storefront. Did I tell you I have a storefront? I need to build it up a bit. Maybe I can work on it some this month now that I know I have a more extended time horizon and can concentrate.
Onward and upward.