Monday, February 23, 2009

Phoning It In

Concentration, from the Game Series, ©2009 Jeane Vogel Photography, Infrared Photograph

Everyone body does it once in a while: phones it in. Creation become mundane. Even work we love can become boring. Maybe I'm feeling sick. Maybe I'm feeling bored. Maybe I'm burnt out. Maybe I'm resentful of the work the client wants.

Maybe I'm just lazy.

I know that sounds harsh, but let's call it what it is. It hits all of us once in a while. We let it slide. It's good enough. We hope it doesn't show.

Of course it shows. All of us are judged by work. Our most recent work. There's truth in the old saying that we're only as good as our last effort. The old stuff might be great, the new stuff is lackluster, but nobody will notice because we're successful or well-known or ... whatever.

I recently read an interview that drove this point home to me. A local reporter, long relieved of duties by layoffs, produced a freelance piece for a small paper. I know this person and the writer is competent. The article I read was not. The questions were common, the writing was lazy. The reporter phoned it in. It was good enough. When I thought about it, I realized that everything I've read by this writer lately has been far below what we used to except. Maybe the writer thought no body will notice.

I think lots of people notice.

As soon as the thought "it's good enough" pops into my head, I know I have to resist the temptation to believe it. As soon as I realized I'm "phoning it in," I know it's time to look at why.

Why is it "just good enough?"

Is the concept not good enough? Start over.

Is the client not paying enough? Learn from that and restructure the pricing -- next time.

Do I think I'm not talented enough to deliver the work I imagined or promised? Try it again. "I can't" generally means "This us too hard. I don't want to try."

Am I bored? Too bad. Do it anyway.

We all can't be the best, but there's no excuse for laziness. There's no excuse for phoning it in.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Game Series

Diversions, (c)2009 Jeane Vogel Photography, Infrared Photograph, from the Game Series

Pamper Me, (c)2009 Jeane Vogel Photography, Hand-altered Polaroid, from the Game Series

Photographers aren't taken seriously as artists by many people.

My work often doesn't look like photography, so patrons confide in me: "I don't really like photography. Any body can take a picture." Sometime they add, trying to be complimentary: "But YOUR work. That's art. You really had to do something."

I don't like pitting my work against other photographers or artists. I'd rather try to broaden the patron's view of art to include traditional photography.

It's true, anyone can take a photo. Seems that everyone does. An artist, though, creates a comprehensive body of work. An artist creates a distinctive style and captures his or her vision on film or sensor. An artist communicates. One or six nice pictures does not an artist make.

That being said, I like to push my medium a bit beyond the obvious. Most people think that photography captures a moment in time. I disagree. A snapshot captures a moment in time. A photograph captures a mood or emotion. It tells a story. It evokes a memory. It provokes a discussion. The moment in time is almost irrelevant.

I am especially fond of photographic processes that expose a part of our world that we cannot see with out eyes. I want to produce work that asks for a relationship -- demands a few minutes of your time and maybe even gives you something new every time you approach it.

My newest work -- the Game Series -- combines both goals. The set-ups take a long time, so I'm shooting each one in hand-altered Polaroid and in infrared. I'm delighted by how different each is, even with the same subject matter.

Does the Games Series demand your time and give you something new? You tell me.

Monday, February 02, 2009

George Bailey, meet Darwin

"Potter's not selling. He's buying! And why? Because we're panicking and he's not."
George Bailey, It's A Wonderful Life

A room full of scared people trying to get their money out of a rickety, broken down, old Savings & Loan before all hell breaks loose. That's the image that comes to mind as I prepare for Art Fair Season --2009.

Imagine the room filled with art fair artists. Imagine we've lost faith in ourselves and we fearful of what we face in the next months as we travel to fairs, set up displays and desperately, hopefully look to each person who comes by.

There's a different feeling this year, isn't there? The last couple of years have been rough sometimes, and that was before the bottom dropped out of everything.

As bad as things are for some people -- and I truly believe that we have to do everything we can to help each other -- it's not bad for everyone. Sure, the media is hyping us in to a disaster frenzy, but let's put things in perspective: There's always a market for good art.

As I head into this new season, there are a couple of things I'm going to keep in the front of my head:
  • I refuse to go into "survival" mode. I will continue to be confident in the quality of my work.
  • I will not cut corners with my materials. I might cut costs, but not quality.
  • I paid attention in high school biology class. The fit survive. The weak won't. I will be fit.
  • I will not slash my prices. I will not give my work away.
  • I will not be greedy. When other artists sell, it's a good sign for all of us.
  • I will be gentle but firm with hobbyists who are selling their work for nothing: undercut me if you want, but I do not consider you a peer. If you want to be treated like a professional, a colleague, you must act like one.
  • I will not grouse about poor sales. Negative energy brings everyone down!
  • I will focus even more on customer service.
  • I will continue my practice to send a personal thank you note to every person who shares their address.
  • I will continue to resist the temptation to copy the style of a more successful artist.
Will this be an easy season or a challenging one? Who knows? Not every artist will have the same experience. I've had terrific shows when my neighbor didn't make expenses. This year, we have to use all the skills we have.

Being a working artist is a lesson in Darwinism: The strong survive. The survivors adapt. The ranks thin and produce better offspring. In our case, our offspring is better art.

I'm not prone to "Pollyanna-ish" sentiment, but I think we have a great opportunity this year. My plan? I'm focusing on my core values: quality, integrity, attitude, graditude.