This has been an amazing few weeks in my photographic life.
- Learned the basics of wet plate collodion from Quinn Jacobson
- Met photographer Nick Brandt and chatted with him at his gallery show opening (one of my idols)
- Attended the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) show in New York. Seventy five of the top galleries all in one place, showing original Stieglitz, Steichen, Adams, Callahan, etc photos. Even a Frederick Scott Archer collodion. I met both gallery owners and photographers whom I’ve only known from online previously.
- Had a photo in the In Your Dreams exhibition at Photoplace Gallery in Vermont (juried by Susan Burnstine)
- Attended an amazing workshop at Luz Gallery in Victoria BC about self-publishing led by Lauren Henkin.
Needless to say, my head is swimming with ideas but also struggling with some of the decisions to be made as a result.
I’m not really a “dabbler”. Many people like to try all kinds of photography, and that’s completely fine and very fun. While I do a bit of that, for my main photography I tend to go deep rather than broad when it comes to technique and “mission”.
For the last 10 years or so, my work has been shot on medium format film, in a somewhat pictorialist approach to my work, with the idea of getting into galleries. The goal was to have representation at one or more galleries followed by a long term goal of being in a museum collection.
The long term goal remains the same, but I feel like I’m at a crossroads as to how I get there. The discussions that I had with gallery owners and even more impactfully with Lauren Henkin have rocked my world and made me question my approach.
From a technique perspective, do I continue with film or do I move to collodion (which I really loved)? The challenge of collodion for what I want to accomplish is that I’m usually photographing in some far-flung country which may be difficult or impossible to acquire the proper chemicals for processing (either by shipping them there or sourcing them locally). Or do I move to the ubiquitous flexibility that digital offers?
Remember, if I commit to a process, I’m “all-in” with it. Obsessively so. So “dabbling” in all of these isn’t in my nature, nor do I think it’s a good strategy.
For the long-term goal of being permanently in museum collections, is the route through galleries the way to get there or do I do it by making hand-crafted fine art books which happen to showcase my photography? The gallery system is, in many ways, fundamentally broken. It’s about marketing and simply survival for many gallery owners. With the economy the way it is, I can certainly see that from their perspective, but as a means to an end for my photography it may not be the best route. I’m not saying it isn’t a possibility, I’m just saying that I’m not sure at this point.
Why museums? It means that someone else sees the value in my work that I do and wants to preserve it. It means that I’ll be able to leave a legacy (I don’t have kids and am the only son, so this is one way to accomplish that). It would mean that I’ve permanently brought a piece of art into the world which would be available for anyone to see, etc. To clarify though, the museum aspect is a byproduct of the work. It’s not to get into a museum for the sake of getting into a museum – it’s about having achieved a certain level of quality that not only am I happy with but that others see as well (with the former being the most important thing).
Should I move away from pictorialism and move to more intensely personal photo essays? It would still incorporate travel as that’s a huge part of my life but come at it from a completely different perspective. I would need to relearn how to approach a subject. This would be a massive change, but could be exceptionally rewarding.
I feel as if I’m at a crossroads, which is great. I’ve had my world rocked and my photography will be better as a result. This will likely take months to figure out – I need to ponder on this for a while.
Many thanks to the people I mentioned from bringing about this new perspective. Your advice has been priceless.