ARTICLES

Rebranding

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Calling yourself a street photographer is a terrible idea if you want to make money from it, this may have been the problem historically with other street based photographers. Those people died poor, or had to get a job in plumbing just like Rick Astley.

In the past, when photography was invented as a genre, it had to fight a long battle for it's right to be labeled as art. That battle is probably still being waged, but this time the angle of attack is different. It's coming from a large scale digital army of mobile phone cameras, anybody can take photographs, even moderately good ones, so, how can it be art if anybody can do it and it requires no skill?

Maybe we need to start behaving like artists more than photographers, maybe the devaluing of our art is our own fault, for not talking and adopting the language of the artist. To use words to make what we do sound mysterious and difficult, and to sound smarter than we think we are. It's the same tools those still defined by a class system and those in the upper balconies in pretending they're better than everybody else when the truth is that nobody would miss them if they all suddenly vanished one day. (please refer to my proposed solution to the brexit problem)

We could learn a lot from artists such as Andy Warhol, David Hockney (seriously, take a look at some of his documentaries, he loves being mean about photography) and many others, perhaps even the ones we despise the most. What fascinates me the most about hated artists is typically they broke the rules and the boundaries that nobody else would cross, simply because of some group set of unspoken rules and morality codes, and as a result, become hugely successful and famous.

Let's start to appeal to our sense of absurdity of what we do as street photographers and turn the dial up a notch until our eyes and ears start to bleed with the confident and brash audacity of it all.

Here in these words, I'll start by proposing a new mandate for how we describe ourselves, with a new model of behaviour when communicating with others about our art.

Street photography is difficult, it's hard to do well. 99% of it is utter turd. We deal with randomness and chasing serendipitous scenarios so we can capture them with elegant composition and lighting, whilst trying to communicate what we personally saw in that street scene to the viewing audience. Take this in comparison to painting or drawing, if you don't like what you see, you remove it, you change it. No such joy for the street photography, your effort is instantly turned into trash, it's no good trying to post edit it either, people will know, they will find out and they will judge you without mercy.

So, on with my very first presuppositions, street photography is the hardest of all art forms. without exception, without debate - street photography deals with reality directly, and reality rarely plays ball with your dreams and desires.

Let's move on, street photography usually involves strangers, taking pictures of strangers, often without them knowing. There is an element of risk if you get caught, possibly more so if you don't carefully select your targets, the lame and the helpless are very good targets, but nobody wants to pay money for a print to be reminded of how badly they're trying to ignore social issues in the world. Ideally you don't want to aim your camera at the angry and quick to temper, you could risk retaining the unique shapes and lines of your face, or even worse, that expensive camera lens you just brought, which caused your wife to leave you. Not to mention additional risks of your camera being stolen. Have you ever met a painter who got their paint brushes stolen? Or got seriously injured because of their art? No? Being alone in a room wearing you dungarees is safe in ever respects apart from being a danger to fashion. And honestly, have you ever heard of a painter absent mindlessly wandering into the middle of a road for a better perspective and nearly being run-over by a car...no. doesn't happen.

And with that, my second presuppositions, street photography in reality is actually an extreme sport and hazardous to ones health.

Next up, the third presuppositions, we are voyeurs, without exception, pointing our cameras into situations we have no right to look at. Invading personal spaces, secretly and without remorse whilst getting that kick of endorphins when the outcome results in a good photograph; without exception, I will take pictures of your daughters and it will immediately result in pregnancy and a series of very hairy and introverted babies. As street photographers we keep skirting around admitting this to outsiders, just in case their piercing judgmental eyes condemn us into artistic oblivion, and possible jail whilst they frantically phone the police on the way out. Instead of sugar coating this fact, we should instead head right on into the chaos and own the label, and use it as personal advertising bait. Nobody ever got rich and famous having a safe, likable character.

Moving on, charge excessive amounts of money for your work. obscene amounts of money, think of a number and triple it. Than make it a limited edition, and add an extra 70% to the price. Then sign it, and double that number. Nothing says value and desirability more than a price tag exceeding the average mortgage. Giving your work a low price contributes to the attitude that photography is worthless, nobody will want it then, it won't be special. In fact, the more obnoxious the price, the more rich people will want it, set the price at a number that has no relation to the quality of the work.

On with the forth presuppositions, value yourself and your work, start behaving like an artist who wants to do this for a living. Validate the art form by collectively agreeing that the prices should be higher. Raise the bar to entry begins to elevate street photography to more special heights of desire. Nobody wants to drive a Mercedes when it costs the same as a Skoda.

And finally, with the fifth. Galleries. Traditional artists have access to a large variety of galleries, with size of gallery matching their current career progress. Street Photographers aren't so lucky, approaching a normal gallery results in strange looks and an inability to comprehend your work. Dedicated galleries devoted to street photography are rare, and only cater to the pre-existing superstars, there is no intermediate step from dirt deep, to the heady heights of international stardom. This needs to change, we need to get organized. Street photographers are a lonely isolated bunch, who barely want to interact with anybody. We need to build our own sales and marketing communities, and build our own brand and image up. We must start to tell the outside world how brilliant how work is, eventually they'll start to believe it. Like rabbits that breed, we must ignore our natural instinct towards isolation and start communing with the others, those who we previously sneered at on the opposite side of the street.

And with this, I hereby conclude by new street photographers mandate, rebranded the genre to sound way cooler than the reality. After all, how did all the painters and the art market go from earning nothing from selling practically useless objects, to exchanging millions on a daily basis... they must've started somewhere, what did the traditional artists do that's different from the photographers?

Let's start copying their rules and adding artistic value to our industry, otherwise we'll all be forever having to work other jobs to fund ourselves, street photography as a viable business model and artistic pursuit needs to become a financial reality.