is art elitist?

I had a very interesting conversation with my 20-ish cousin on Christmas night.  He was speaking to me about the plight of the young artist trying to break onto the scene.  He painted an abysmal picture of the quintessential 'starving' artist.  Over the course of he conversation, the following things came to light:

Many young artists are dreaming of being 'discovered'.  They feel threatened by the 'old boys' club that runs rampant - the moderately successful local painters and musicians and photographers who monopolize the venues, the people who own the venues, and the people who patronize the venues.  He spoke to me like this was something new.

Now, I'm not in the 'old boys' club.  As far as photographers go, I prefer staying off the grid, and have little to no desire to gain fame, earn accolades from my peers, or steal patrons from other artists.  I don't require any labels, memberships, or letters after my name to feel like as an artist I am being creatively 'right.'  There are those (both patrons and artists) who above all value the memberships and the accolades and the prizes that come along with a person being considered a 'professional artist' (whatever the hell THAT's supposed to mean) and I suppose I'm a bit of an anomaly (or cynic?) that way.  I'm an art for art's sake kind of girl, without the expectation of peer recognition or public support of my vision.  That people pay me to do what I love doing is a pleasant side-effect of apparently doing it well, or at least interestingly.  And I don't begrudge people who DO charge lots of money - I think it's amazing and wonderful that they can make a living and even gain fame or notoriety, and think they ought to be applauded for having either talent, or great marketing...

I have a background in marketing, and this young kid's description of their plight sounded less and less like elitism and more and more like there are a lot of lazy artists out there looking for their big break from the comfort of their seat at their favourite cyber cafe.  They somehow feel like they are entitled to success simply because they created something, even if what they created is crap.  They can't see that it's crap.  It's their art.

Aye, there it is, there's the rub.  I've often waffled over the idea of going 'pro' as a photographer.  I've already been approached twice and had it suggested I apply for membership and commence the process to becoming a 'master.'  Aside of not really wanting to take pictures as a full-time gig, a big part of the reason I haven't gone that route is because I take exception to the elitism that comes with membership, this perceived 'greatness' that is implied with the designation of a professional photographer.  Along with that recognition my market value goes up, and as a portrait photographer, I am expected to price myself accordingly or be viewed as unfairly undercutting the competition.  

Maybe I don't want to do that.  Maybe I don't want to be famous.  Maybe I don't want to be unaffordable.

Portrait photography is weird this way, because I believe it *is* something that needs to be accessible, meaning, affordable.  And affordable for people in lower income brackets (where many people reside) is cheap department store photos, which, if it's of their kids, is what they had to go get because the professional school photography outfits want you to take out a second mortgage these days to afford their crappy over-processed cookie-cutter mugshots.  (I barely recognized my son last year after they smeared his face with digital foundation - whoa!)  But department store (and school) photos, while perfectly functional as a means to record the passage of time, aren't really the kinds of pictures people hang on their wall and admire.  They glance, but never admire.  With every other 'professional' designation from lawyers to denists there is some sort of sliding scale... is this an oversight in portrait photography?  I suppose it depends on whether you view photographs of you and your family as necessary, or not necessary.  And when is a portrait art?

At the end of the day, ultimately the question is, who decides what is and what is not art, and who is a professional?  The artist?  The artist's peers?  The venue owners?  The patrons?  Is it elitist?

back from slack

Well, I extended the slacking by a day and spent the 27th sleeping in, putzing around with my family, watching a movie with my husband, and devouring the new novel I got from my mother in law.  Once the children left for their other parents' places, today was primarily spent de-Christmassing the house - throwing out all the goodies I shouldn't eat, packing up all the decorations and stashing the ladder down in the nook between the chimney and Kaelan's bedroom where we found it when we moved in this house, and trying to find homes for all the new knickknacks, toys, and paraphernalia we got for Christmas.  I also caught up some laundry (all excited to try out the new oh-so-sweet 400 thread count bed sheets we got YAY!) as tomorrow I have an emergency' session for a client whose photographer mysteriously disappeared after doing her son's 6 months session.  (Very weird...)  So, once I get the floors all swept and vacuumed and mopped, I'll be setting up for portraits.  ~sigh~  No rest for the wicked.

The new website is progressing along nicely, though slower than I had hoped.  I'd forgotten how long it took putting together the old website, and have really left myself not quite as much time as I'd like to work on it.  I have a feeling tonight will be a very late night.  At least the course materials for the workshop on the 13th are ready.   (There are still a few spaces left, so tell your friends!!!)  The other sessions are roughed in, but I still need to write my presentation notes, or I'll forget the important little things.  I'm excited - this is a labour of love, and I'm just so happy to be in a position to share my knowledge and excitement about photography with others.  More often than not, the most fulfilling gifts are the ones you give.

Just 4 sleeps until 2008, and the unveiling of the new website!!!  I could pee!

and to all a good night!

As threatened, I worked my butt off getting everyone and everything caught up so I can spend 3 days straight being nothing but Wife and Mother and Sister and Daughter and Friend without the nagging gnawing feeling of knowing something has been left not done.

I'm off to start slacking! Merry Christmas to you all... seeya on the 27th or so!!! I'll leave you with some pictures of our decorations, the Leg Grounds, and a bonus sign - nothing says Christmas like a petting zoo and donkey rides!

branching out

Every year for the last ~insert insane number of years~ I drive myself to insanity working for ~insert insane number of hours~ on the Programme for the North Country Fair. It's a labour of love, the huge bonus being I get to hang out with the incomparable artistic director, Carol. A few years ago I did some family pictures for her. Her son is getting all growed up now, and is making musak! He used one of the pictures I snapped of his edible nephew S. for his website avatar.  How cool is that?

The God Sounds

bellies, bellies, and MORE bellies!

The water west of the city was contaminated earlier this year, I'm sure. Eva (tadpole #5 in the BIG family photos from October!) was the first of several babies born to the Spruce Grove/Stony Plain Mamapalooza, followed by Malayna and Alyx, with babies due to Isaac's Mommy, Evan's Mommy, and even Wren's Mommy! Yesterday we FINALLY managed to squeak in a maternity and family session for one more of the Mamapalooza ladies - Ethan's Mommy! Heather and Glen - you guys are so gorgeous, you just don't even know it.

One of the BEST parts of my job is watching my clients' families grow. I especially love seeing how older siblings react and respond to the pending arrival - both Evan AND Ethan seem to think they ought to have a baby in their belly too! May you have a speedy, uneventful, euphoric delivery, AFTER January 13th...

A special shout out to Becky, from whom I borrowed the building block shot!

(And didn't I tell you how amazing the natural light is in winter?!?! Amazin!!!!)

oh, how I missed the winter!

I think with he extended abysmally brown and grey autumn we had, no one was more excited to see snow than yours truly, if nothing else because pictures are positively stunning with the light reflecting off the snow. For a natural/available light photographer like moi, snow is definitely the trade-off for having to take indoor pictures through the cold weather.

And despite a rocky start that morning (it was a bad day - don't ask...) having Evan's curls and his gorgeous and perfect-belly-buttoned Mom to use Mother Nature's lighting equipment on certainly was worth the trip to @$#^@%$# WalMart on one of the last shopping days before Christmas.

who could resist more Liam?

This delicious young man was a star subject. Not only did he let me stick him in a suitcase and put goofy animal hats on him, but her let me frame him, too! Amanda - seriously - ANYTIME... drop the baby off... go for coffee with a friend... get some errands done... take an extended holiday...

welcome, Jaden!

Candice (finally!) had her baby boy, beautiful Jaden Jason, and let me tell you he is BEAUTIFUL! I had a cold the day I went to see Jaden so not only had I slathered myself up good with one-step sanitizer and eaten about 4 lbs of cough lozenges to minimize my voughing, but I donned a really sexy face mask. Jaden wasn't feeling much like getting his picture taken by a crazy lady with a hospital mask on, but he warmed up after we got Mom to somewhat obscure his view of the scary lady. Ha!

Mom and Dad, thank you so much for letting me squish the baby. I look forward to seeing you again in February!

two so in love

Thank you for letting me come on a walk with you. Thank you for bringing your puppies. Thank you for being so beautiful, together, alone, inside, and out. May your blessings continue.

my most specialistest birthday gift EVER

I got this from Laura over at With Ice Cream Please.  I'm speechless.  Bill says his favourite part is absolutely the hearts in the signature.

musical zingers

Tanya mentioned that Mahatma Ghandi's "An eye for an eye will make us all blind," is one of her al time favourite quotes. I'm personally a big fan of messages in music. Here's one of my favourite lines from a song, ever.

"Charity is a coat you wear twice a year."

Ouch, hey? Anyone else got a great one-liner from a favourite artist? (And yes, I am a George Michael fan. HUGE. I have ALL his CDs, and even some vinyl. WOOT WOOT to the GM!!!!)

an eye for an eye will make us all blind

Christmas quickies

People have unique Christmas traditions all over the planet.  I'm not interested in theirs.  I'm interested in YOURS.  Copy and paste this into your comment and answer!

1.) What's your favourite Christmas cookie?
2.) What do you put in your stuffing?
3.) What's your family's 'signature' Christmas tradition?
4.) What time and day do you eat dinner?
5.) Craziest Christmas memory?

philanthropic pranksterism

OK - I'm not nearly as good at sharing an interesting story bout Canadiana as Babzy, but here goes with a Dickens-flavoured true story for your holiday enjoyment, peppered with some stunning images taken by Dorothea Lange (I asked my husband for two of her books for my birthday literally minutes ago...) some free stock photos, and one belonging to NASA (go figure)...

The Dirty Thirties were a time of great desperation.  The Dust Bowl, resulting from a combination of overworked agricultural fields and drought, followed hot on the heels of Black Tuesday in 1929, leaving thousands of families destitute and hopeless.  For comic relief, Toronto had the lasting legacy of one Charlie Millar.

Charlie Millar was an eccentric and wealthy lawyer who died a bachelor in 1926, when the 20s were still roaring.  He was known for his cynicism and rather odd sense of humour which usually revolved around he themes of greed and hypocrisy.   During his lifetime he amused himself by planting coins on the street and watching who would stoop to pick them up, and when he wrote up his last will and testament he put his ultimate theory - that every man had his price - to the test.  Although many of his bequests were uproariously funny, like leaving shares in gambling establishments to upstanding members of the community and giving away stock he didn't own in a Brewery run by Catholics to Protestant Ministers in the vicinity, the one that kept his name alive long after the initial tongue-in-cheek humour of his will had worn off became known as the, "Great Stork Derby," a race to inherit the residue of his estate by the Toronto woman who gave birth to the most children in the 10 year period following his death.  (One theory suggests that this was Millar's paradoxical means of showing support for the legalization of birth control and recognition of illegitimate children.  Interesting fellow, wasn't he?)

Of course, in 1926, he could not have foreseen how the stock market crash 3 years later would ultimately impact what was initially seen as little more than proof he was truly outlandish.  The estate, worth about $100,000 (resting primarily in $2 shares in what is now the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel) ballooned to about $750,000 between the time of his death and the time the prize would be claimed. For the families who struggled to feed themselves, and weren't willing or able to join the race, it became de rigeur to keep tabs on and even cheer for the families who were in the running, not unlike the phenomena I believe spurns the success of shows like American Idol and Britain's Got Talent. 

In 1936, when the 10 years had lapsed and the economy still seemed miles from an economic upturn, there were four families who split the quarter-million kitty, less a meagre $25,000 amount awarded to avoid litigation from two women who 'lost' the race, one due to two stillborns and the other due to multiple fathers (the will was perhaps ironically interpreted to mean registered live births and legitimate children only.)  The winning families each had 9 children, and five out of six of the families spent their funds very sensibly on houses, vehicles, and their children's educations; the mother of the mixed bag of babies apparently had a price of $12,500, left her family, and ran off with the money.

This is, of course, a poignant and fitting end to the Great Stork Derby, as it applies to this self-explanatory quote taken from Charlie Millar's will:

"This will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests upon me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime."

I think I would have really enjoyed his company.

There's a movie about this called (you guessed it) The Great Stork Derby, starring one of my favourite Canadian actresses, Megan Follows (she was Anne of Green Gables, of course!) It's on my list of movies to rent while I'm slacking off and ignoring people over the holidays!