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.