I recently read a blog post by a photographer who had just returned from one of those big time review sessions. In the post he says, “Here is what I learned about my work…” I found something about that simple statement unsettling.
This man has been a photographer for, I’m guessing, 35 years. He shoots commercially, and he has had at least three long term art projects going since I met him about 15 years ago. While I can understand learning something new about your own work, hopefully on a daily basis, it seems somehow sad that an artist in his position repeatedly pays thousands of dollars a year to have experts dictate the level of acceptance of his work.
It may be that I, myself, am scared of putting myself into a position like that (although I have), but intellectually, there are things that bother me about the process. Artists are supposed to develop their own body of work as individuals, not try to conform to the dictates of magazine and book editors. When editors treat art and artists as commodities to be ordered as you would order a sofa, something is terribly wrong in the world. It seems to me that the art world would be better served if editors spent more energy on educating their public than on educating the artists.
This, of course, brings to bear the reality of magazine and book publishers needing to stay in business. It is sad that National Geographic has had to resort to sensationalism,(Compare recent covers to covers over 4 years old.) and Aperture concentrating on photographs of and by political and entertainment industry celebrities to sell magazines. I am certainly not denying the positive aspects of showing work to other people to get feedback; that’s a necessity, but it seems as if art is getting lost to the world of commercialization.