Sunday, August 11, 2019

Show your work

That was the kiss of death for me in school. To go through and write out each step of a problem evolving into a solution seemed like the stupidest thing ever. If you had the answer, who cared how you got it? Let's just say my thinking on this has evolved over the years.

I just finished reading SHOW YOUR WORK! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered, by Austin Kleon. It's a quick easy read, but there's lots of value and interesting stuff in there. I'll be going back over it today to think more carefully about how to apply it to me. One of the first things I learned was that I saved many thousands of dollars already by not going to graduate school. Yay me! As a digression, he mentioned Art and Fear by Bayles and Orland, which just happens to be the book I read right before that.

Both books and several more were bought in Blue Rocks Gallery in Black Diamond. It's a great little art gallery bookstore with all sorts of interesting stuff in it. I've been trying to support independent bookstores lately, and it's easy when they have books that leap into my hands. It's probably just as well I didn't have more time to browse; we were on the way to lunch with friends.

Professionally, back when I worked a day job, the show your work thing was an essential step in credibility for telling project managers their assumptions were wrong. I've butted heads with several of them over the years about what did or did not need migration, and what was involved along the way. Some people might be good enough to write a great whacking complicated but elegant SQL statement in one go from beginning to end, but not me. I have to build it up step by step and validate it as I go to make sure I'm getting the correct results.

Artistically, the show your work thing is tough. In one sense, it means show your best work, but you can't get to your best work without going through a whole lot of work that is not your best. Part of what helps you get through 'not best' is to have someone else look at it and comment. For written work this means a beta reader or an editor. For a visual artist it means another such artist. Then you have to balance what they say against your artistic vision. At first they're probably right.

But there's even a more fundamental problem. It's the 'show' part. It ought to be easy to show your work. Start a blog, build a website, enter contests, join photography groups. That's the easy part. Build it and they will not come unless you provide a compelling reason to come, and return.

The next harder part is getting the image ready for display. Only an idiot would pour their heart and soul into a great image, then display it on Instagram. A big print, yes, the details will show. But where does the print go? Even my on line images I can easily see the differences between the jpg that gets used compared to the edited CR2 file I see in Lightroom.

An even harder part is finding people to look at your work enough to render a thought about it beyond 'it's ok', or 'I like it.' Good feedback will help you grow. But your image is competing with all your other images, and an infinity of other images produced by other people. Why should they look at yours?

The hardest part, if you're trying to make a living as an artist, is pricing your work. I completely agree, your image (sight unseen) is better than Voice of Fire. But the number of people that will pay more than $1,000,000 for a work of art is limited, to say the least. I don't know any such people, or if I do, they're being awfully quiet about either their taste in art, or their financial resources.

Too many people think art is free. I mean, look at all the photographs on display everywhere, how can they not be free or nearly so? Look at all the people trying to sell their book, how can words not be free or nearly so? I'm pretty sure that in any artistic medium, there are more people trying to sell their work than there are people or institutions to buy it.

Everybody carries a camera now, a pretty good one. I've often seen families take photos at a race, and suspect that many of them are disappointed at the result. The stand around and show the medal shot will probably be ok, and that's what most people want. But anything where the racer is moving is going to be a tough shot, and the further apart the camera and racer are, the tougher it is to get a good shot. In all honesty, in most cases the camera phone is better than the photographer. That's why some races have a race photographer.

But will people pay for these better shots? Even at rock bottom prices? NO! Or only a very, very few will. They don't see why they should. Their buddy took an iphone shot, after all. I've seen people take the heavily watermarked photos provided by the race photographer and put them on blogs or facebook. Wankers! Those are provided for you to make a decision about buying, and are not meant to be the actual photo for your use.

It used to be that a photographer packed their gear, had an assistant to help them, and they trekked into the boonies to get a landscape shot. Ansel Adams is probably the most famous example. Well-off people paid for that shot because there was no alternative. Now, everybody can get those shots, and with better cameras. (Hint, in some cases the camera is better than the photographer.) There are actual lineups or crowds at some of these vantage points. Everybody gets nearly the same shot. Basic economics says that as the supply goes up, the price goes down.

One of the suggestions is to tell a story about your work. That adds meaning, and makes it more relatable to people. I suppose I could add details about each photograph, the trial and tribulations I went through to get it, or what I was intending vs what I got, the secret meaning of it, where the numbers to a Swiss bank account are embedded in it. (hint, look in the patterns of the bark on that nearest tree.)

Looks like winter, doesn't it, the first snowfall of the season. Not. Late afternoon, Aug 6th, and we worried about hail. I didn't get wet, though, it's shot from our front porch. Infinite care, I tell you, infinite care was taken with the settings and editing to show the streaks of raindrops, and the misty effect.

Oh, and good luck with that Swiss bank account.

Peony of the Day

Driftwood of the Day
So here we are, done the Mahia Peninsula. I'd go back! Now we are working through Kairakau, Mangakuri, and Pourerere beaches on March 1, but they weren't good for driftwood. Only 2 shots, so you might as well get them both today. I was looking forward to seeing a waterfall at the north end of one of the beaches, but we missed the tide.

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