Make Good Art
Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.
Studies show consumers are willing to pay 5 to 10 per cent more for sustainable green products and services. But only so long as they function as well as their non-sustainable alternatives. Sustainable options must be just as reliable, safe, convenient, utilitarian and as “pretty” as competing brands products to get sustained consumer attention. Sadly, some manufacturers have found from their research that their products need only be good enough to reach target and niche markets, and in some cases, offering a simpler product is actually more productive in sales to a highest of standards offering. Can people still Make Good Art, and at the same time, make a living? Frankly, you have no choice.
Does this apply in photography as well? Are people willing to pay reasonable living wages to professional photographers for their photography work? The photographic industry, as a whole is in trouble. Camera and camera related products are at all time lows, sales wise, and yet there has been an enormous increase in the number of photographs available online every year. Sadly, the major portion of it ripe with the smell of mediocrity. What has taken the value of the experience and the knowledge gained over a lifetime of work, and in just a couple of short years driven the commercial value of it to virtually nothing? How is it that “good enough” has become a new professional standard? How did the bar get lowered, and a better question still, where is the replacement standard going to settle out? The garbage pile is growing so fast it won’t be long before an image search for good photography is like searching for a needle in a haystack; it won’t be possible unless some new search methods are devised. Like pollution in all of its other forms, our planet is awash in well intentioned but artistically lacking photographs that have cheapened the entire medium. Not many, it appears, know how to “Make Good Art.”
Is it that there is so much photography coming at us? The net is inundated with selfie updates, Facebook boasts, twitteratti, and Instagram mistakes-no-longer-mistakes. Is it a populous photographic uprising, or is it just a virtual mountain sized garbage heap? Everybody is a photographer inside, therefore an artist in their own right, and a tremendous source of income for numerous online websites and multi-national corporations. The internet has grown by leaps and bounds over the past ten years, as the business of photography has slowly declined. So have the number of paying jobs for people to Make Good Art. Not just photography either, all of the art based professions have suffered dramatic declines with the rise of the online revolution. So what do you have to do to rise above the noise? When anyone with an iPhone can capture a perfect exposure anywhere it takes, as John Wayne would have said, true grit and more heart to put soul into your work. Soul that other people will recognize and can’t help but appreciate. Make Good Art.
My friend Magnum Photographer and publisher of BURN Magazine David Alan Harvey said back in 2008 when asked “What advice would you give young photographers?”
“You must have something to “say“. You must be brutally honest with yourself about this. Think about history , politics, science, literature, music, film, and anthropology. What affects does one discipline have over another? What makes “man“ tick? Today, with everyone being able to easily make technically perfect photographs with a cell phone, you need to be an “author“. It is all about authorship, authorship and authorship. Many young photographers come to me and tell me their motivation for being a photographer is to “travel the world“ or to “make a name“ for themselves. Wrong answers in my opinion. Those are collateral incidentals or perhaps even the disadvantages of being a photographer. Without having tangible ideas , thoughts, feelings, and something almost “literary“ to contribute to “the discussion“, today’s photographer will become lost in the sea of mediocrity. Photography is now clearly a language. As with any language, knowing how to spell and write a grammatically correct “sentence“ is, of course, necessary. But, more importantly, today‘s emerging photographers now must be “visual wordsmiths“ with either a clear didactic or an esoteric imperative. Be a poet, not a technical “writer“. Perhaps more simply put, find a heartfelt personal project. Give yourself the “assignment“ you might dream someone would give you. Please remember, you and only you will control your destiny. Believe it, know it, say it.”
David’s way of saying Make Good Art.
Here is a concept. Whether painting modern handprints on a cave wall using primitive techniques, or setup to photograph a wedding with a digital camera, if everyone started out advising themselves “Today, I Will Simply Make Good Art” our world will evolve to be a better place filled with better art. So I shout out to all of you reading these words, go out and MAKE GOOD ART!
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