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« civilized ku # 2479 ~ a follow up to yesterday's entry | Main | civilized ku # 2478 / ku # 1231 ~ rhopographer or megalographer - which are you? »

ku # 1232 ~ explanation entry, Part 3 - an observed lacuna is generating an ambiguity

Black hose ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack Park • click to embiggenIn the previous explanation entry, diptych # 26 ~ explanation entry, Part 2, I wrote:

I need to get my work circulating. That reaction was instigated by my pondering of the notion that, if my picture windows sample book had arrived at the door of the Margan Lehman Gallery before Allee's Frame of View portfolio (or whatever he submitted), would I be the one to have an exhibition?

IMO, the answer to that rumination is, "No".

There are a number of reasons for that supposition ...

I went on to write about 2 of those suppositions with a notation that I would write about a 3rd supposition in another explanation entry (while this entry is concerned with my efforts to have gallery exhibitions, it could also be construed to apply to anyone's efforts to enter photo competitions / contests), so ...

First, a little history: Early (6 months after acquiring my first camera) in my shallow and callow picture making youth, while I was toiling (in Japan) for Uncle Sam making charts and graphs, I entered a world-wide military photo contest. 3 of my pictures won 1st place in 3 different categories - nature, architecture, and abstract - at the local level. 2 of those pictures went on to garner top 3 recognition at the regional and all-theater (Pacific Theater) level as well.

Arguably, and justifiably so, those photo competition / contest awards were the single most influential reason I went on to become a professional picture maker.

Within a month or so after my success, our Command's photographer was transferred back to the States. Without a replacement in place, I raised my hand and said, "I'll do it." On the strength of those awards, the response to my "volunteering" effort was, "OK. You can do it." Whereupon I was handed the Keys to the Kingdom in the form of a military-issue 4×5 Speed Graphic (with flash attachment)*, to which I responded, "What the f**k is this?"

Nevertheless, the rest, as they say, is history.

What I really didn't realize at the time of my photo competition / contest success was exactly how incredibly lucky I was. For, as I have come to learn / understand, entering a photo contest with the hope of winning or finishing in the running is, at best, a crapshoot, or, at worst, a waste of time. The same could be said of submitting work with the hope of having a gallery exhibit.

While I have had reasonable success with both contests (I rarely do contests anymore) and gallery / art institution exhibitions (4 solo, 2 group, 1 PBS segment in the past 2 years) without a doubt, my experiences in such endeavors have demonstrated one thing loud and clear - one person's garbage is another person's gold. As is evidenced by the range of responses to my picture windows ~ this is a quiz entry, the manner in which any one person responds to a given picture is an exercise in idiosyncrasy of the highest order.

While it's true that what one gets out of a picture is intrinsically linked to what one brings to it (attitude, visual / art literacy, life experience), nevertheless, even individuals with a relatively similar level of bringing it on will inevitably have different - often radically different - viewing and emotional / intellectual experiences and results. While there might be some level of observer objectivity involved in the viewing process, there can be no denying that subjectivity is the reigning order of business.

Consequently, IMO and relative to whether I may or may not have had any success with my picture windows work at the Morgan Lehman gallery, given a large number - have no doubt about it, there are a very large number - of picture makers with relatively similar high-level work / bodies of work, it's still going to be a crapshoot, re: whose work gets exhibited and whose does not.

This is especially true in the commercial gallery sphere. Not only does one's work have to connect on an art level with the gallery owner or curator, but it must also connect with him/her/them on a this-work-is-salable level as well. Galleries aren't in it for their artist health or an altruistic devotion to the advancement of fine art photography, they're in it to make a profit. Even art institutions have to keep their donors / supporters / patrons happy (and hence, giving), not to mention the admission paying public as well.

An Aside - re: this-work-is-salable. You may have noticed that David Allee's Frame of View exhibit is his 3rd solo exhibit at the Lehman Gallery. I think it safe to assume that the first 2 exhibits had reasonable this-work-is-salable success. Consequently, even if my picture windows work struck the right art chord with the gallery director, the decision pendulum would have swung to Allee's work based upon his track record with the first 2 solo exhibits.

All of that said, and assuming your work is of very high caliber, for there to be any success in having a gallery exhibit or win, place, or show in a photo competition / contest, I believe it to be a numbers game. You do have to get your work out there. While that should be done with an intelligent approach - sending nature pictures to a gallery or contest which normally features street pictures is a waste of time - one really has to play the numbers game.

That is, getting your work seen by as many people as as possible, knowing that doing so will eventually hook you up with a few gallery directors / art instiution curators who "get it", re: your work.

*Ironically enough, I had to travel halfway around the planet to be introduced to a camera which was manufactured in my own hometown (Rochester, NY). Also, again ironically enough, I had to travel halfway around the globe to discover an interest in making pictures. Something I never did while growing up and festering as a youth in the Photo Capital of the World, right in the shadow of the Big Yellow Box.

Reader Comments (2)

Good post Mark (subjectively speaking of course)

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClifford Gwinn

Yes, very good and inspiring to me. And thank you for your service to your Country.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDon Cooper

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