This week it would seem I have had a major breakthrough. I found a site that has helped me address many of the (unspoken) questions and doubts about my photography:
Namely, ‘where now?’
The next step. The next stage. When is it? What is it? And, most importantly and frustratingly, where is it and how the hell do I get there?
What I do know is that I am a photographer. And that my being a photographer grew directly from my being an artist. What I don’t know is how to be a photographer. Is this compulsion I have an incredibly expensive, time consuming hobby? Or am I on a road, along with thousands of other artists, heading for that elusive next stage in my career?
And what on earth does this so called career consist of? Commissions? Magazines? Agencies? Galleries? Agents? Fine Art? Landscape? Documentary? Exhibitions? An endless list of possibilities.
And while there is much I don’t know, there are a couple of things I have discovered along the way.
Two major pitfalls, temptations or sins we artists seem to fall foul of. I say ‘we’, but it may just be me. Though I will assume it is most of us. For the sake of my own sanity…it is safer that way.
Arrogance and lethargy.
Arrogance. Something I can’t imagine an artist not having. It may be tempered and controlled. It may come across as self belief. Or it may only show it’s other, equally debilitating side, self doubt. What I do know is that while it is more than likely essential an artist have it within their character – can you imagine exhibiting without some level of self belief or chronic self doubt? – it must be controlled, understood and used to our advantage. I am not better than other artists. I may believe I am, but I am not. And this arrogance should not prevent me from socialising or mixing with my peers because I feel it unnecessary or pointless. And more relevantly to this post, I will never be too good or experienced to seek advice about my work or career. I may choose not to listen or act upon it, but first I must and should hear it. And to hear it I must put myself within earshot. And that means leaving the darkroom.
Lethargy. Laziness. Depression. Lack of self motivation. Call it what you will, but we are all subject to it. And the truth is the more time you spend alone in your studio or darkroom, the more it spirals out of control. The harder it is to get up in the morning and work, without a deadline spurring you on. To email people, organise exhibitions, take photographs, print, write, put yourself out there. To find the motivation to do whatever it is that needs doing. Even if it isn’t urgent and could just as easily be done tomorrow. And above all to do it well, with enthusiasm – an infectious enthusiasm.
It is too easy to become overwhelmed by all that needs doing, to allow the lethargy to use this as an excuse, to sink back into that comfortable fog of your dreams. You need to find the motivation to face your fears and the mountain of options in front of you and take those first steps.
But knowing this is not always enough. Sometimes you need to know what that first step is. There are so many options, so many possibilities, it is no wonder you are sometimes overwhelmed by them. It is too easy to see nothing but hundreds of these small first steps bearing down on you, all intertwined and related. Too easy to decide to take one of them only to realise you can’t take it without taking another one first. It is a maze and mess of first steps, a house of cards, giving you the perfect excuse and reason to put it off till tomorrow.
And then suddenly, for me, a moment of clarity.
A chink of light, a clear, simple path for me to take my first step on. A path that will hopefully answer my questions about what to do next, where to go.
Thank you Be Smart About Art.
It is a wonderful, clear and succinct website that bridges the gap between artists and dealers. They hold events, talks, workshops, social evenings – a community and support network, perfectly placed to give the arrogant, lethargic artist a way forward, a way in, to banish the apathy and temper the arrogance. There are articles and blogs tackling the issues artists, galleries, agents and dealers face. Removing the fog and mystery that surrounds the ways in which these worlds interact, making the paths we must take and the choices we must make clearer and simpler.
It is exactly what I needed.
So yes, I am an artist.
And I have spent years in isolation, doing what I do, and doing it well.
What I haven’t done is learnt about what happens in my industry (yes, industry), met peers and experts and discovered, firsthand how to make money from my work.
I have poked my head above the parapet occasionally, and, I believe, been successful considering my isolation and limited resources. But somehow I have always retreated back into my own little world, frustrated that nothing had fallen into my lap, determined to do better next time. And every time I resurfaced there was never an obvious support network, or facilitator, bringing parts of the industry together.
And for the first time I believe I have found one.
That overwhelming and tangled mess of paths is now a clear and succinct network or options, opportunities and possibilities.
Thanks to that clear and succinct website that is Be Smart About Art.