Yesterday I received this email: Hi Jennifer,
It seems to me, that in this hard-times economy where photographers struggle to stay alive and their work has been so devalued, to give away 10 prints of your best work (to anonymous persons on the street) has any benefit to the artist. This is merely throwing our work to the wind and does nothing to educate the "collector" about the value of art.
I simply can't pay my rent with air.
This is not the first email like this I have received over the past year planning this tour, and I have been asked about this aspect of the program several times.
And I get it. I can completely understand and respect a photographer who does not want to give away their work. I know that artists are asked all the time to donate to auctions and to participate in programs where their work will be priced lower than market.
So here is my answer: Say no. I did not approach this particular photographer and demand free work. I put out an open (free) call for photographers who want to participate in the local photographer showcase to submit an image for consideration.
Again, I get it. But I also know there is more than one way to skin a cat. I don't know about skinning cats and the various ways, but I do know a lot about building collectors. In fact, that is what I spend most of my time thinking, researching, writing about - and actually doing - in my gallery, through The Ten, with programs like Art Circle and ArtFeast and Walk Away With Art and now with this giant, crazy tour around the country.
There are a lot of people out there who aren't thinking about art, but once they have an interesting, engaging, positive experience around it, they begin to look at their walls differently. And there are a lot of photographers out there who want an opportunity to get their work in front of new people and make a personal connection by speaking about their art and advocating for themselves and their work. Pulling up to a high foot-traffic part of town in a 1977 VW bus, talking to curious people walking by, allowing these people to engage with a photographer who created an image that caught their eye, and letting them leave with a 6x9 print of that image after exchanging contact information and hopefully the promise of a follow-up engagement is just one idea.
If it's not for you, well that's fine too. You can skin your cat any way you choose. I think it worth mentioning that I'm trying to do something. I see a problem, and I thought of a way to address it. If you have a different solution, I encourage you to do the same. The more people trying to build audiences for art, the better.