Good question...

Aline Smithson has a very thought-provoking post up on Lenscratch today here. In it she raises questions about whether we as artists can "afford" success--both literally and figuratively. I actually had the pleasure of seeing Aline in person last month at one of the exhibitions she sites--it was an excellent show and I was drawn to her series in particular because the girls in her images were all Edie's age, but staged in a way to create a dichotomy between a sense of the old-fashioned (through their clothing and wallpapered backdrops) while also pointing to the future, as one could imagine what they might be like as adults. During the opening Aline and I touched on some of the issues she talks about in her post, mainly portfolio reviews and what a photographer can and can't expect to get out of the experience.

When I attended Review Santa Fe it was wonderful for me socially, and gave me a sense of community that has been invaluable. However, as far as the actual monetary costs involved were concerned, there was no gain as such. Obviously there is more to all of this than earnings, and for me the trip was worth it. But as my income hasn't increased since then it has become more and more financially difficult to swing certain things, and the reality is that if I wanted to attend RSF again I would need to approach it realistically, being willing to sacrifice other things in order to be able to go. All of this points to the choices I as an artist struggle with: the necessity of making work in order to feel fulfilled coupled with frustration that I can't have my cake and eat it too, at least not for the foreseeable future.

This reminds me of Colin Pantall's post "What is Success?" My answer to the question was generally philosophical (scroll down to read my answer), but when I see Aline so clearly outline the other, more practical side it is pretty depressing I must admit. Is there a scenario in which photographers might again be "rewarded" for participation in things rather than footing the bill to have the work out there? I don't know the answer.

I'll close with the end of Aline's post, where she summarized so well the difficulties I and other photographers face:

"We need to be marketers, promoters, and navigate through social media. We are required to wear many hats and be capable of many tasks, and still have a creative voice, and find stillness in the chaos to make work.

Something is wrong with this template. In addition, this enormous expense put onto the photographer narrows our community, narrows who can participate. I don't have the answers, but it's time we figure it out. Otherwise, we won't be able to afford our own success."


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