Whatever happened to the idea of applying basic business practices to making art? I’m a photographer and fund projects I am now engaged in through the sale of existing prints. The supplies I need to make my work cost money. I have different price levels and services which give me greatest exposure to the changing market. I sell prints on Etsy, I sell limited edition prints through galleries (online and real), and, I sell prints to interior designers to help them better articulate a private or corporate space. The point being, I sell work to fund work.
Selling prints to fund projects helps people connect with the business of making art. Technology has created the illusion that creating art has no cost. “Why not shoot it digitally and save money?” is a question I hear a lot. It is a good point to make but it overlooks an important aspect of creating: vision. I make the bulk of my artwork using a large format (8×10) view camera. The film costs $4.00 a sheet. I don’t even want to talk about the wet plate collodion process and the cost around that. Suffice to say, creating my work has a real cost to it and part of my creative process has to include how to pay for it.
Some projects need crowd funding to get off the ground. A friend and colleague, Phil Nesmith, has used Kickstarter to underwrite some very important projects. I’m an admirer of his work and the integrity he brings to his projects. He is making images that cannot be easily reproduced and sold. The issues he confronts in his work are personal and political. I think his use of crowd funding is perfect for him. He also likes to sell his work but I’m focused on how he funds the project beforehand.
I’m a commercial fine art photographer. That means I make my living and support a family with my work. I love selling my work. I love the relationship that is created through that exchange. Thinking about my work in these terms helps me put a value on my time and effort. It also forces me to create value for the work I produce. This is simple business thinking. I also support other artists and businesses the way I want to be supported. I support people’s time, talent, and creativity with money. I’m happy to do it. My only frustration is not being able to support everyone to the level I’d like. I need to sell more prints to do that.
The relationship between artist and audience has become blurred. Selling work re-establishes that healthy boundary for me. I buy performance tickets for the opportunity to be a member of the audience. I buy art for the same reason. It is important for an artist to have an audience regardless of the creative medium. The money exchanged is not a cynical gesture but an act of love, faith, and support.