Palm Springs Photo Festival

I was in Palm Springs the other week, to attend the Photo Festival (PSPF) and give a presentation on my work on 2nd April. This opportunity was thanks to Blurb, with whom I publish my book ‘Self gazing’. They also wanted to use the time at the festival to have a meet-up with the other artists on their Pro Council, a scheme still in development which will soon make an appearance on their site.

I gave my presentation in an evening session in the delightfully orange Annenberg theatre in the Palm Springs Art Museum (seats orange, curtains orange, even the cleaners’ brooms were orange) . The museum was full of exciting diverse work, from a huge fibreglass puppy in the foyer, to the lifelike dummies of an elderly American couple, by artist Duane Hanson, who were slumped realistically in the corridor just outside the lecture theatre. I knew it was Hanson’s work as I came across his work in a book at college a few years back. Funnily enough I at first thought the dummies were real.

In my presentation I spoke about my work, the story of how I got into photography through photo-sharing, current opportunities and future plans. It was similar to my Pro Photo Summit 08 presentation but with a focus on what I called the ‘right here, right now’ factor that artists get by sharing their work online and by having galleries pursue them this way, also, crucially, being able to self-publish their work. I spoke about my Blurb books, examples of which were at the Blurb stand.

Other speakers at the evening presentations were Steve McCurry, Greg Gorman, Duane Michals, Mary Virginia Swanson, James Colton (from Sports Illustrated), Todd Hido, and Norman Seeff. Thanks to artist Jeff Dunas for being a great host.

I enjoy planning different angles to each presentation for different venues and audiences. It is, however, a challenge for any artist to (a) try and choose what to say about one’s work/life/motivations within the average 30 mins of their duration (b) always feel comfortable analysing their own work or talking about it, as opposed to the norm of letting viewers take their own interpretation.
Then there’s the actual delivery. Usually my body feels more nervous than I actually feel in my head. I now feel comfortable enough to want to change the format of my delivery. I’d love to mix it up a bit. After seeing a good few soundtracked, free-running slideshows of artists’ work at PSPF, such as the work of Brad Moore and Todd Hido. I’d like to see how mine could fare in this format – it would mean people wouldn’t get distracted by the pictures whilst I blabber on, they could watch them and give them whole attention…

I really enjoyed the festival. Even though we arrived 2 days in (almost halfway) I managed to capture enough of the seminars to get a feel for a running theme and indeed an indication of change in the world of photography: a blurring of the personal vs. the commercial, and merging of ‘art’ with ‘photography’ to a point where it’s not only me who feels as if they don’t know what label to give themselves. People talked about conventional topics: how to pursue galleries, how to get photography work, how to present one’s own website; and yet, there was a distinct feeling that the modern/future photographer does not need to separate their different portfolios of work and sell different angles of themselves to different audiences. One photographer present at a seminar on marketing oneself on the web, led by Dennis Keeley, Mary Virginia Swanson and Dan Milnor, said that he planned to ditch his structure of two sites and a blog, and bring them together into one space. He was determined to feel comfortable with the prospect of selling himself as one person, one unit, and one artist with not just a single portfolio of diverse work; but also a blog where he speaks his mind, ‘psychobabble’ as someone called it, showing his personal life, sharing his anecdotes and jokes (it was very interesting to hear that at he got at least two of his clients through sharing a simple, funny anecdote about his childhood on his online journal).

Above: outside the Art Museum.

I enjoyed watching other photographers’ work, even those of the style that isn’t usually my cup of tea. I particularly enjoyed Todd Hido’s night photography which inspired me to pursue my liking of low light and do some outdoor night shots later in our trip outside the inns and motels we stayed in. I was also intrigued by Norman Seeff’s presentation and his reassuring reflections on the notion of the ‘artist’ – how even in his years of film and photography he feels the confusion and fear he believes are within all artists, especially those who are first pursuing their vocation.
We were lucky on the evening raffles too – Matthew won a bag one night, and the following night, I won CS4!

Later I’ll write more about the trip we had post-PSPF, and share extras from the 30GB of image work we did, alongside my Flickr uploads.

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Posted in Essays, musings, Inspirations - References to other artists, Talks on April 14th, 2009 | 8 Comments |

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Comments for “Palm Springs Photo Festival”

    1. Zoe Wiseman
      6:34 am on April 15th, 2009

      I saw your presentation at the Annenburg Theatre. I really adored the selection of work that you showed… but Microsoft, Flickr and Blurb kind of took over and it felt like an advertisement instead of a beautiful presentation of your fabulous work. I really would have been much more entertained with a selection of your images. Your photography is great… show that more!

      I realize that Blurb was footing your bill… but with such a glorious movie screen to showcase yourself, I myself would have kicked Blurb to the curb. (sorry it rhymed) I think you could have fit in a little “blurb” about “blurb” easily without all the other excess. Especially since you were selling your books. I don’t know if the corporations are pressuring you into doing it, but none of the other photographers had to. I remember the corporations more than I remember your images. Luckily we have the internet so I can refresh my memory.

    2. Miss Aniela
      11:36 pm on April 15th, 2009

      I got similar feedback from a couple of other people.

      Thing is, I can never tell what the context of a presentation will be like until I get to the place, and that’s after having had prepared the presentation at home already. Of course I can adapt a little bit to the new context… but my overall plan, owing to time restraints, will remain focused on what I already prepared. So I wasn’t anticipating the ‘movie screen’ high-quality projector, being used to the trade shows of recent months! There’s only so much of an impression one can get of a festival from the website beforehand. This was the artiest event I’ve yet been to – the least product-oriented and hardsell.
      No-one pressured me to say anything in particular, I was left to my own planning as always.
      I do believe I kept Blurb-linked screengrabs down to a minimum – they occupied only 3 slides, my images alone graced 50. Of course, I also threw in some clippings of MS work and magazine features, but that was to illustrate the narrative of where I’ve come since 2006, which I’m proud of. As for Flickr, it seems that like in other interviews and presentations, I mention the site more than I realise. I guess I’m just normalised to reciting how the community on there inspired me to get into photography. There’s a great community on there (shit, uptight people who run it, though) but I highlighted how it’s only a site, not directly responsible for anyone’s achievements.

      However, to challenge your point: I think it would be naive for anyone to assume that my images themselves – and traditional ‘arty’ practices of print-selling & exhibitions – are all that there is to my story. I know you know that Blurb arranged this event, but without the things happening with MS, I wouldn’t be able to pursue photography on such a devoted scale at ALL right now.

      I know for a fact that people want to hear more about my art, and that I can afford to be more soft-sell. I do intend to adapt my future presentations, and reflect more on ‘art’ itself.

      However, I also want to be realistic – I’m currently making a living from the interest these companies are giving me, not from the images alone. Without them, of course I would not exactly be nothing – but I’d still be in my day job, from which I wouldn’t have even been able to get holiday leave to attend festivals like these at all.


    3. Zoe Wiseman
      1:32 am on April 16th, 2009

      It’s a hard juggle. You’ll work it out.
      Just don’t get boxed into a corner. You’re a bit more than a corporation. ;) It’s nice they’ve given you the opportunity though.

      The power of the individual is coming to you for immediate gratification! ha. One of my favorite sayings!


    4. bronwen
      2:53 pm on April 17th, 2009

      you’re getting some fantastic opportunities!

      i was just saying to another photographer friend of mine in LA the other day about how, although the internet, email, etc., make the art world of the US, UK, etc., so much more accessible to those like myself based so far out of them, that the one thing that i miss about no longer living in the UK is the opportunity to see such inspirational artists (especially duane michals and greg gorman; i’ll have to check out the others you mentioned) speak about their work and experiences. if their work makes it to galleries here it is rarely accompanied by personal appearances and lectures :o (

    5. Arty Fucking Smokes
      6:41 pm on April 17th, 2009

      I’m just completely jealous that these corporate organisations allow you to travel the world, where you can see the sights and meet other like-minded creatives. I think you’re giving them great value for money too.
      I would love to see one of your presentations one day, but they never seem to have Photography summits in Essex! Keep up the good work and the blog updates.

    6. Miss Aniela Photography: Blog
      10:42 pm on September 9th, 2009

      [...] date now: Microsoft Pro Photo Summit, Photokina, live photoshoot in Seattle, Focus on Imaging and Palm Springs Photo Festival, over 20 presentations that have been slightly different each time but with similar general themes. [...]

      6:08 am on September 13th, 2009

      I just came across this blog – and wanted to state that Blurb didn’t insist on me agreeing to Miss Anelia’s presentation at all – she is supported by the great people at Blurb because OF her work and the massive audience she’s built for herself online and how she’s leveraged that with her Blurb books. I offered her the spot on our program because of her work and her career path, demonstrating the immense power of directly promoting one’s work in online communities, of which she is a pioneer. Blurb suggested I look at her work originally but I was under no obligation from Blurb to present her at the festival nor was she under any obligation to mention BLurb in her presentation. She got a lot of people thinking about new possibilities which is the stated purpose of the festival.

      Director, Palm Springs Photo Festival

    8. Miss Aniela
      4:01 pm on September 14th, 2009

      Hi Jeff,

      Nice to hear from you, thanks for visiting my blog and for offering your input here!


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