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Posts Tagged ‘photographers’

It may be creative, but, hell yes, it’s still work!

In art, beauty, behavior, books, business, culture, design, film, journalism, Money, music, photography, US, work on May 13, 2014 at 12:58 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Time to let go, at last

Did any of you catch this recent interesting piece in The New York Times?

The way we habitually think and talk about these matters betrays a deep and venerable ambivalence. On one hand, art is imagined to exist in a realm of value that lies beyond and beneath mere economic considerations. The old phrase “starving artist” gestures toward an image that is both romantic and pathetic, of a person too pure, and also just too impractical, to make it in the world. When that person ceases to starve, he or she can always be labeled a sellout. You’re not supposed to be in it for the money.

On the other hand, money is now an important measure — maybe the supreme measure — of artistic accomplishment. Box office grosses have long since become part of the everyday language of cinephilia, as moviegoers absorb the conventional wisdom, once confined mainly to accountants and trade papers, about which movies are breaking out, breaking even or falling short. Multimillion-dollar sales of paintings by hot new or revered old artists are front-page news. To be a mainstream rapper is to have sold a lot of recordings on which you boast about how much money you have made selling your recordings…

This is something I think about a lot.

My father, still alive at 85, was a respected maker of films and network television, as was my stepmother. My mother worked as a journalist.

It never occurred to me that “artist” and “starving” belonged in the same sentence. Nor should they!

This notion that being creative means penury or 1%-land is absurd. We don’t expect or require this of others — the middling executive, the stalled lawyer, the so-so administrator. The world is filled with people doing their best and never hitting the heights, nor surviving on ramen in a group squat.

More, from the Times’ piece:

Inexpensive goods carry hidden costs, and those costs are frequently borne by exploited, underpaid workers. This is true of our clothes and our food, and it is no less true of those products we turn to for meaning, pleasure and diversion. We will no doubt continue to indulge all kinds of romantic conceits about artists: myths about the singularity of genius or the equal distribution of talent; clichés about flaky, privileged weirdos; inspiring tales of dreamers who persevered. But we also need to remember, with all the political consequences that this understanding entails, that they are just doing their jobs.

I’ve been writing for a living — sometimes for a nice wage, sometimes for a much-less-amusing one — since I left university. But I’ve never cracked that sexy glass ceiling of the six-figure income.

malled cover LOW

Talent and hard work, prizes and fellowships — got ‘em. There are few direct correlations between the standard metrics and creative success, let alone buckets ‘o cash. Your ability to schmooze, to accept and perform work you find creatively grotesque, to suck up abusive client behaviors — these, too, factor considerably into who will (quickest) ascend the greasy pole of fame and fortune.

The creative life is one that many mythologize or fantasize about: waking up at noon to daub a canvas or noodle about with your screenplay. How lovely, how freeing to flee the grim confines of cube-world and the predations of The Man.

Snort!

Every time I put on a pair of shoes, or eat a meal, I touch the direct reflection of talent and hard work — it produced the income that keeps me housed, fed, clothed and will fund my retirement.

Making art — of any kind — in no way excuses the artist from the costly necessities of life, no matter how cool or offbeat our lives and work may appear to others choosing a different vocational path.

One of my favorite books is The Creative Habit, by American choreographer Twyla Tharp, who has made her career by — as she eloquently puts it — walking into an empty studio and making a dance.

In the end, there is no ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit-forming. All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them, they compel you to get started.”
Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Creative work absolutely is work, even if/when it doesn’t earn enough to buy you a house or a shiny new car — or any car, ever — or the plaudits of The Right People.

And holding fast to principle — creating something you imagine to be of lasting cultural worth, not merely sating contemporary appetites or shoveling cash at your expenses — remains a difficult challenge for many artists faced with the same costs of heat, fuel, clothing, food and housing as the rest of the workforce.

Jose and I recently saw this terrific 1987 play, The Substance of Fire, about a New York City family-run publishing house and its internal battle over this issue.

IMG_20140512_122236059

Here’s a post I wrote about this in 2011, which was chosen for Freshly Pressed.

I ask whether we should focus on being productive (look what I made!) or creative (which might be publicly inaudible and invisible for months or years, producing no income):

I’m not persuaded one can be both all the time.

We all need time to think, reflect, ponder, meander, take some detours, some of which — being immediately unproductive — lead into dead ends, some of which lead us off into totally new and hugely profitable (financially or creatively) directions.

Shutting down the production line for a while — silence! solitude! no immediate income! I’m wasting time! — can feel terrifying.

It’s absolutely necessary.

Do you work full-time in a creative field?

How’s it going?

How do you measure your success?

LAST CHANCE FOR WEBINARS!

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Conducting a Kick-Ass Interview (what’s the one question you must ask?)

Crafting the Personal Essay

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Please sign up here.

Princess, schmincess — a few very cool role models for a little girl

In art, beauty, behavior, blogging, children, Crime, domestic life, education, family, life, love, parenting, photography, women, work on May 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Loved this!

So my amazing daughter, Emma,  turned 5 last month, and I had been searching everywhere for new-creative inspiration for her 5yr pictures. I noticed quite a pattern of so many young girls dressing up as beautiful Disney Princesses, no matter where I looked 95% of the “ideas” were the “How to’s” of  how to dress your little girl like a Disney Princess…
It started me thinking about all the REAL women for my daughter to know about and look up too, REAL women who without ever meeting Emma have changed her life for the better. My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters. I wanted her to know the value of these amazing women who had gone against everything so she can now have everything. We chose 5 women (five amazing and strong women), as it was her 5th birthday but there are thousands of unbelievable women (and girls) who have beat the odds and fought (and still fight) for their equal rights all over the world……..so let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses for just a moment, and let’s show our girls the REAL women they can be.

The black and white photos of Emma, dressed and posed as Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller and Jane Goodall are charming, lovely and thought-provoking — taken by her mother, Austin, TX-based photographer Jaime Moore.

English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller.

English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t have a daughter or even nieces to hang out with, but smart, powerful, high-achieving role models are huge for young girls, especially in cultures that tend to value women primarily or exclusively for being thin/pretty/docile/mothers.

It’s not easy to be a smart, ferociously determined young woman, and find a welcoming place in a larger world that is sharp-elbowed enough as it is.

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, some of the women in my field of journalism who inspired me included contemporary photographers Susan Meiselas, Deborah Turbeville, and Jill Krementz (who I got to meet and shadow for a day, {also Kurt Vonnegut’s wife}) and other successful women journalists, from Molly Ivins and Nelly Bly and Margaret Bourke-White to war correspondents Marguerite Higgins and Martha Gellhorn, (also one of Hemingway’s wives).

Have you ever heard of Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy?

She has (so far!) won four Pulitzer Prizes:

As a young girl, Carol Guzy always wanted to be an artist. But as she was coming of age in a working-class family in Bethlehem, Pa., such an ambition seemed impossible. “Everyone I knew said, ‘Oh, if you’re an artist, you’ll starve,'” she recalls. “You have to do something really practical.'” So Guzy chose to go to nursing school. Halfway through she realized she would not, could not, be a nurse. “I was scared to death I was going to kill someone by making some stupid mistake,” she laughs. So while she was trying to figure out what to do with her life, a friend gave her a camera and she took a photography course. Her fascination with photography led to an internship and then a job at the Miami Herald. In 1988 she moved to The Post. Her photographs have won three Pulitzer Prizes and three Photographer of the Year awards in the National Press Photographers’ annual contest.

A long list of cool, brave women led the way so that I could do the work I enjoy. I admire the hell out of them and am grateful to them for speaking up and out and taking risks, both physical and professional.

Signature of Susan B Anthony

Signature of Susan B Anthony (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you have a role model growing up?

Who — and how did that affect you?

The creative class is struggling, too. Do you care?

In art, beauty, behavior, books, business, culture, design, film, journalism, life, Media, movies, music, news, photography, television, US, work on April 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm
De artist

De artist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not just lawyers who are hurting  — 7,500 of them surplus in 2009 in New York alone.

Or older men.

Or those who used to work in manufacturing.

The “creative class” is as well.

Those working in photography, architecture and graphic design have seen a 20 to 30 percent drop in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Since August 2002, those working in the music field have seen their work opportunities plummet by a staggering 45.3%.

“The story has really not been told,” Scott Timberg, an arts and culture writer in Los Angeles said to host Kurt Andersen on the weekly public radio show Studio 360, which examines all forms of culture. “They don’t always have a tattoo or beret.  They’re like Canadians, among us secretly, silently and invisibly.”

“A life in the arts…means giving up riches, making a trade-off to do something they’re passionate about,” Timberg said. “It’s become forbidding for a much wider group of people…I see some of the best getting knocked out.”

Timberg also wrote about this recently on Salon:

Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen write anthems about the travails of the working man; we line up for the revival of “Death of a Salesman.” John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson hold festivals and fundraisers when farmers suffer. Taxpayers bail out the auto industry and Wall Street and the banks. There’s a sense that manufacturing, or the agrarian economy, is what this country is really about. But culture was, for a while, what America did best: We produce and export creativity around the world. So why aren’t we lamenting the plight of its practitioners? Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that creative industries have been some of the hardest hit during the Bush years and the Great Recession. But  when someone employed in the world of culture loses a job, he or she feels easier to sneer at than a steel worker or auto worker.

As both a Canadianan, living in New York since 1989, and a member of the creative class, I’ve absolutely felt the sting of this terrible recession. My last staff job, as a reporter for the New York Daily News, the nation’s sixth-largest paper, ended in 2006.

My income the next year fell by 75 percent. Fun! It’s now barely back to 50 percent of that figure. In 2008, 24,000 journalists lost their jobs.

It’s an interesting dilemma because being a creative professional — like those who choose law, medicine, dentistry — demands years of attention to one discipline. You start out with talent. You may invest tens of thousands of dollars in higher education, workshops, coaches and ongoing training. It’s crazily competitive and the criteria of success often utterly quixotic and subjective. A lawyer wins or loses a case. A dentist fills a cavity.

But a creative person, in any field, can languish in poverty/obscurity for years, if not decades, if their work or style isn’t fashionable or they just doesn’t know enough of the right people. To really make it financially, you often need to layer the daily hustle of a used car salesman onto the independence of spirit of the artist.

Many of us just can’t squeeze both personalities into one brain.

Yet we all hope to enjoy the basics of middle-class life: a home, a family, a vehicle, a vacation once in a while.

It’s a dirty secret but those of us who work creatively, whether we paint, sculpt, take photos, design buildings or play in a quartet also want the things that cube-dwellers do. Our groceries cost the same, our gas just as overpriced.

But, unlike many corporate cube-dwellers, we may have to purchase our health insurance in the open (i.e. costly) market; in 2003 (when I went onto my husband’s plan through his staff job) I was paying $700 a month. It’s now normal to pay $1,000+…adding an overhead of $12,000 pre-tax dollars just to avoid a medical bankruptcy.

Especially in the United States where corporate billionaires are lionized, creative folk — typically self-employed and working out of public and the media’s view — are seen as slackers, stoners, half-assed. (Author John Grisham earned $18 million last year — hardly typical.)

Very few creative professionals in any genre or medium will ever earn that in their lifetime — no matter their objective excellence, awards or peer respect.

Yet other nations actually pay their artists to help them quality work; the Canada Council hands out $20,000 grants every year to fortunate writers who have produced two books deemed worthy.

Are you a member of the creative class?

How’s it going for you these days?

A War Photographer Loses His Legs: Joao Silva’s Sacrifice

In behavior, business, Crime, Media, men, news, photography, politics, religion, the military, travel, work, world on December 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm
The New York Times building in New York, NY ac...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a new slide show on The New York Times‘ photo blog, Lens, of the images up to the moment that Joao Silva, one of the world’s top war photographers kept shooting — and stepped on a land mine.

He lost both his legs. He is now recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His wife and two children live in South Africa.

It is almost unbearable to me as a fellow career journalist who relies heavily on the bravery of men like Joao and his many colleagues to bring us the unvarnished news — that, in simply doing his job, he has been so grievously and permanently injured while I work safely at home at a suburban computer.

He even squeezed off three more frames after the explosion.

I write freelance for the Times and my partner has been a photographer there and now a photo editor, so Joao, and his work, feels like family.

Those who put themselves in harm’s way every workday do not always wear a military uniform. We have a camoflauge Kevlar vest — it’s so heavy! — in our storage locker that my sweetie wore every day he worked for the Times shooting the Bosnian war.

Every journalist, videographer, cameraman, fixer and translator telling these dangerous, possibly lethal and important stories is risking his or her life for us, for the truth, for the facts. For us. For our ability to know what’s happening before it it’s spun, twisted, hidden or omitted.

We  need to know what is going on in the world and we will always need, and rely heavily on, people like Joao to show us.

We owe them.

Want Your Photo In The NYT Business Section? Here's One Way In

In business, education, photography on May 1, 2010 at 7:29 am
NY Times Building

Image by jebb via Flickr

It can happen.

You’re an ambitious young photographer, but still in university or a fresh grad. You read — (you do, of course) — every agate/photo credit for every major photo moved by the wires and the agencies and the major papers — wondering when it’s your turn.

For two terrific young women, Samantha Sais and Marie deJesus, their dream came true this week, Sam’s photo illustrating a story about a Tucson  man who’d successfully fought off bill collectors and Marie’s of a coffee-shop owner in San Juan, PR, unable to get a business loan. It happened because they were chosen to participate in The New York Times Student Journalism institute, open every year only to student members of the NAHJ or NABJ.

Winners get paid to spend two weeks working closely with top editors from the Times and other regional papers, so when a shooter is needed and there’s a talented student in that town, they’ve got a good shot at the assignment.

The editor who assigned to both women — my sweetie. I’m proud of his commitment to finding and nurturing the next generation of talent, regardless of age or gender. Talent — and making the right contacts — can be enough.

Capturing The World May 2 Unites Photographers Worldwide

In art, Media on April 21, 2010 at 8:51 am
Allowed to copy and distribute

Image via Wikipedia

Capture a moment in time, Sunday May 2, and join thousands of photographers around the world, a project created by The New York Times‘ Lens blog, one of my favorites:

These were among the responses to our initial invitation, “A Timely Global Mosaic, Created by All of Us,” in which we asked everyone, everywhere, to join in making this worldwide photographic mosaic, with each photographer submitting their one best picture. As guidance, we suggested a few broad topics like arts and entertainment, community, family, money and the economy, nature and the environment, play, religion, social issues and work. And we also suggested that you might find the experience even more rewarding if you do some planning in advance, taking into account how best to represent yourself, and your community, with a single image.

You asked how long you’d have to submit your picture. | The answer: up to five days from the time you took it. The submission form will be live and usable from 15:00 (U.T.C.) on Sunday, May 2, until 15:00 (U.T.C.) on Friday, May 7.

If I had to capture my community in one image, what would it be? A woman getting a manicure? A tug towing a barge up the Hudson River? A day laborer waiting on the corner for work? It’s a cool exercise in forcing us to think hard about what we see every day (or don’t) and how much we take it for granted.

What’s unique about your community? What might you photograph?

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