Facebook is taking us back to the seventies. If you’re not on facebook, don’t worry. This trend may be coming your way too. Posters are back. Quotes are being integrated with images to create messages and stories. Words don’t seem to be enough. Instead of posting personal updates, or quoting famous lines, people are passing along posters as poems that convey more than the words or the images do alone. It is a new wave of creation and a new means of communication. I don’t know exactly where it is heading, but I see some of the consequences occurring now. It is changing the way people spend money and the way they view the world.
Last night was a quick bit of fun. No, nothing that racy. I enjoy public speaking, or at least recognize that I’m not as intimidated by it as others, so I offer myself up to talk to groups. Of course, it is a sales opportunity, but I did it even when I had enough money. Two days ago I got a call from a friend I met at the Money And Life Conference. John Pendleton was the photographer and participant so we got to talking life, the universe, and photography. He’s also the President of the Whidbey Island Camera Club. Their speaker for Tuesday night’s meeting backed out. He asked me to fill in on short notice. I said, “Sure!” Then I asked the detailed questions. Where and when is it? What do you want me to say? How long do you want me to talk?
They let me set up a display of most of the ways I exhibit and sell my photos, and let me talk for about 15-20 minutes. It went by in a rush. Then the four dozen or so photographers held their monthly review of each others’ work. It was impressive. Exquisite timing of fireworks and ferris wheels. Subtle and strong weathered structures. Sepia-toned lilies. Mirrored reflections that effectively show two stories at once. While I’m at it, I’ll continue. A cafe in France that worked as a single image, a diptych, or a triptych. A woman and a Ducatti and a lesson in changing a story by cropping. On the street film portraits in China that show two emotions in one frame. Yep. I had a good time.
Besides their talents, I was impressed by their technical skills and the amount of education and energy they exerted. Photoshop versus Aperture. Nikon versus Canon. Debates ensue. Most of the accomplished artists were creating for their own benefit. They spent thousands of dollars on equipment and software, and days of effort transforming a few shutter clicks into far more involved stories. For many people, a simple photo does not suffice – not on facebook and not on their hard drive. Few of them are trying to sell. All of them get some satisfaction from what they do.
The goal rarely has anything to do with money, and is more likely to aim for greater creativity.
Writers are the same way. Most books never make money. That means most authors never make money. A few years ago, I was told that half of the profits in the publishing industry come from 20 authors, not 20% of the authors, but 20 authors. Yet, in that same time, the number of writers becoming authors, the number of people self-publishing, has dramatically increased. If it was only about the money there’d be a lot more disappointed authors out there. I consult with artists and authors, and teach classes in Modern Self-Publishing (July 21st in Freeland, August 18 & 19 in Coupeville, and available in your town too.) The majority of writers want to become authors because they have something to say. Making money can be a great side effect, but the main incentive is communication. Writers are luckier than photographers though. The equipment and classes cost less.
In my previous post, A Grocery Bag Of Garbage, I said, “Most of the money I need to make is for mortgage, insurance, and utilities – not stuff.” I am still scrambling to find a way to make that happen after my Triple Whammy. (Yes, I continue to hunt for a job and my home is market.) Even when I’ve had significant discretionary income, most of the extra money that didn’t go into buying stock went into buying knowledge through reading, classes, and experiences. I look forward to returning to that status. There is a lot I want to learn and experiences I want to experience. If you’ve read my blog often enough you can probably guess that I’ll turn those into blog posts, photo exhibits, talks, and books. Information is healthiest when it isn’t boxed, stored, and let to dust.
There was a traveler there last night who is inspirational. Jennifer bought a tear-drop trailer, an exercise in stylish minimalism, and left Wisconsin to learn about herself and her country. Here’s a quote from her chronicle.
“Again I say: this is America. This is you and me. These are the folks who make everyday America happen. Electricians, waitresses, customers…we all came together and supported each other. I thought I was going out to see America, see the parks, nature areas, towns, but what I am really seeing are the people who populate and are our country.”
It is a similar sentiment to why and how I travel. She isn’t going shopping. Besides, there’s only so much room in a tear-drop trailer. (Check out her photo gallery to see how she does it.) She was at the Money And Life Conference as well. From what I can tell, she too is questioning “stuff”. Traveling where everything has to fit in a small space is illuminating. I now know that I can travel for weeks on what fits in a backpack or a set of panniers. I’d tell you more about her experiences, but I lost the link. She was nice enough to send it again, but now there are 33 pages of story to catch up on. Hey, that sounds like a book (hint, hint.)
Ironically, what I was talking about last night was stuff. Here’s how to sell a print, or a satin, or a book, or a poster. The art business has been depressed for the last few years. Not the best time for me to make money from five-year long photo essays, even if they are of wonderful places like Whidbey. Yet there is a demand for imagery and a desire for expression. I find that encouraging. If people are more interested in communicating than acquiring then society may be heading in a healthy direction. The conventional economy may not appreciate the move, but conversing uses fewer resources than consuming. Maybe along the way we’ll mutually learn, and benefit, and travel through new and better experiences.
I hope my books and photos help with that conversation. My passion is for people and ideas, and I use words and images to convey ideas between people. That has a value, and I guess that is one reason I am comfortable with people buying a bit of stuff from me. I also know that maybe we are all hunting for new ways to express ourselves and to communicate, so I plan to merge my words and images into posters. I’ve uploaded the first and will make the others as time allows. I don’t know where that effort will lead me, but I imagine that won’t stop me. Following my intuition is a trend I have.