Saturday, February 23, 2008

I want my cake and ....

There has been a lot of interesting discussion on this blog about trying to reconcile the commercial world and art world. I thought it would be good to address it here. (Oh and I love the feedback but would rather you sign your name unless you are saying something terrible in which case Anonymous is hunky dorey.)


I am not interested in being a pure artist nor does just shooting commercial work interest me. I am trying to find a balance. Yes, I want to have my cake and eat it too.

I very much enjoy both worlds. I like the challenge and excitement of putting together an ad job. It is also one of the rare times that I am truly able to colaborate on a project. Also the idea of being a starving artist does not appeal to me. Being broke and single at 25 is a very different animal than being broke and 39 with four children.

On the art side I feel like I am on the right path.While the work is very much in its infancy, I am making images for myself of things that interest me that are devoid of any other commercial concerns.

On the commercial side things are less clear. After a short but successful advertising career I am trying to raise the level of work that I show and hopefully the work that I get. However I am not so naive as to think if I show compelling work then the phone will start ringing off the hook. I need to make it easy for people to hire me. (see earlier cow post) The question is what to show.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

anon again, sorry, i'm shy...

all the experts, all the consultants, all the art directors say: show what you love doing. thus, show your new work alongside the other work. someday someone will have the guts to hire you to do something in that vein. showing the art side isn't going to turn you into a starving artist... is it? who am i to say -- i'm 50-something! and though i have made a living as a photographer i have never cracked the bigtime ad world...

Jason Campbell said...

It is so hard to show different kinds of work in one portfolio. I think you have to put them in separate books.
If you do put them in one book, I would love to see what it looks like when you get this all sorted out.
I get a chance occasionally to see other photogs books. It's always interesting to see how other people put it together.

allegra wilde said...

T, et al... (sorry long post..)

Yes, you do hear all of the consultants (myself included) say the same thing. "Do what you love", but often for photographers (and other artists) it is very difficult for them to BELIEVE in the eventual commercial success of their personal work without pandering or "speaking the language of the market" because generally that kind of work is not what they are seeing being purchased by the "marketplace" generally.

It makes much more sense to me to try to understand exactly what we are talking about when we are looking at what the market really is. For example, there are over 18,000 buyers of assignment photography in the US alone. I can guarantee that none of you will ever work for all of those buyers. Do you need 10? 5? new clients a year? It is virtually impossible to turn off 100% of those people by showing your personal work.

Yes, the wrong people will call for the wrong reasons. But if you make your book for the most literal buyer, then you cant show it to a creative genious. With proper promotion and some original thinking in your content and succinct presentation in your book, yes, you will be considered for some jobs that are inappropriate. But to me it is the only shot you have at the ultimate creative collaboration with commercial partners that you have always wanted to work with. Imagine instead that you have a meeting scheduled tomorrow with one of the most creative magazine art directors, or agency creative directors in the business (they've seen everything, remember?). What are you bringing them? That original and personal portfolio is the one that you BOTH will like better...

Remember: If you market to the smartest people out there, then the stupid people will call you anyway! (It doesn't ever work the other way around, but that is the approach that most of your competitors will take... ).

To wit...

It is interesting to try to wrap your head around the numbers of photographers who look virtually the same and are vying for the same business. Those photographers have dutifully studied what is "happening" in commercial photography, gone to various meetings where art buyers explain it all, commiserated with their peers on magic formulas for promotion, sizes of portfolios, image content etc. and have educated themselves basically into carbon copies of each other.

The logic in a personal approach is to try to get yourself out of a giant pile of others who could be considered a "type" or style or have similar content. Many people (incorrectly, in my view) assume that if they are not showing what they think the buyer wants, then they will not be considered at all. But the fault in the logic is that EVERYONE is showing what they think the buyer wants, and the more that you look like everyone, the less your chances are of getting the job.

Also... If you were a creative director, what would you want to see????

Bruce DeBoer said...

Thomas - I've struggled with this my whole career but it wasn't until I spent 5 years on the agency side working on market strategy that it became clear to me.

You are talking about brand extension. Brand extension is wrought with difficulty because the goal of a brand, especially a young one as you've characterized yourself, is to carve out "mind space" in your target market. Mix it up and you will lose your brand identity.

I'd suggest that if you want to do one style for fine art and another for commercial, then don't mix your markets. Promote yourself differently to each market - they don't talk to each other much and even if they did, it's very easy for both to understand. Your brand won't suffer the way Coca Cola clothing did in the 80's.

Just my humble opinion.

caroline favrot lee said...

Thank you Allegra Wilde for this explanation - your opinions make so much sense. This is the first thing written about the marketplace that gives me hope that I can create what I want. -thanks again

Doug Stockdale said...

For those who are not full time professional photographers and striving to be accepted in the art inner circles, we keep reading about the pros photographers who seem to get the gallery/exhibition breaks. So we thought you were in a much better place! Your thoughts and concerns are not unlike other full time professionals (e.g. engineers, etc) who are not professional photographers and want their creative photographic efforts recognized.

Thus I find myself siding with Bruce, do your stuff to make a living and also do the stuff that makes you live. And if you can leverage the two as Allerga writes, all of the better.

Raoul Benavides said...

Thomas,
you are exactly where you need to be.
Soon you we be where you wanna be.
good luck,
ride the wave
-R

Darrell Eager said...

Brand extension,Brand extension,Brand extension?
What is that mumbo jumbo? Just make pictures

Darrell Eager said...

Brand extension,Brand extension,Brand extension?
What is that mumbo jumbo? Just make pictures

Darrell Eager said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Darrell Eager said...

Wow! that was strange.