Ken Smith Photo Journal

Archive for March, 2010

the photo marketplace

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Late Chrysanthemum

Yesterday there was this article on the front page of the online NY Times about how professional photographers have been required to make fundamental changes due to the influence of the digital world, the internet….and the sheer numbers of photographs being made and marketed by amateurs and parttimers.

The article reflects almost exactly what I have been recognizing in the marketplace for my own professional work in the past few years. I used to secondarily sell my fine art imagery via a stock photo agency; and a check occasionally helped tremendously to allow me to keep making fine art work. Then, that stock agency was bought out by Getty, who was not interested in fine art work, and then the microstock and royalty free business plan came about……and, well, you know the rest. The stock industry then became more of an amateur’s market. I moved on, and gave stock little more thought. That part of the marketplace had turned away from the path I wished to follow. What distinguishes a professional from an amateur, is that the professional is in it for the long haul, attempting to create credibility, a reliable reputation. A style, a niche. One who can be contacted by another professional needing that quality. It can only happen over time, and time culls out the amateur.

An amateur just doesn’t have the available time, as does a professional who is in it 24/7. The amateur has a job to go to each day. Maybe the royalty free or microstock agency can work with the parttimer, but serious professionals want to work with other professionals who are just as serious, and who have something to lose, besides grocery money. I think it is necessary to have to risk something, to sacrifice something, in the quest of a career. I cannot quantify it, but it seems in the spirit and nature of commitment to the work.
So it makes sense that my stock royalties are gone. It causes me to focus more directly on my fine art work. The real reasons I got into my work are there more pronounced than ever. More significant work is wishing to be made. New materials worked with, profound feelings to express. And the marketplace and money aside, I thrust myself more eagerly into the work as though it is more important than it has ever been.

What concerns me the most about the jillions of images being made, is that the reputation of the ‘image’ may become diluted. If photography is seemed too easy, so nonchalant, will it become the equivalent of ‘small talk’? Has it already lost its presence? Are we so flooded by images made, shared, given away free to the marketplace…that they are no longer trusted as symbols of contemplation or accurate expression, of anything?

It can make the work of the fine art photographer even more challenging. The work must be so filled with significance, so well crafted, that it can alone in the strength of its visual presence, convince the viewer that this work rises above the millions of images, is meaningful beyond what he/she experiences every day. This image, is imbued with a heart, and the viewer is reminded of something she already has known deeply, and feels an innate belonging to what the image shows. Maybe it is the same primal task as it has always has been, but as the Times article implies, it may be more tough for the serious photographer – and the viewer – as we go forward.

Written by Ken Smith

March 30th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

church bells and half moon

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On a side street in Xilitla, Mexico is a church with a row of churchbells, and on the right late afternoon, a half moon.

Written by Ken Smith

March 21st, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Landscape,Travel

mexico church

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I am deep into several projects, and hope to post some examples soon. In the meantime, how about a trip to mexico….

Written by Ken Smith

March 17th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Landscape,Travel

one thousand one…

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I had an opportunity this last weekend to blow the dust off my Burke and James 5×7 camera. For a couple years it has been a shining sculpture in my living room, a relic and reminder of a past when things were not so electronic. I put it to work photographing some turtle shells I am incorporating in an art piece. It wasn’t an easy matter, for I had to reacquaint myself with the other world which I had left behind for so long. I needed to get out my handheld pentax spot meter, fill the wood film holders with efke 100 asa sheet film…I had to clean the darkroom sink of the accumulation gathered there as the darkroom became a multi-purpose room.

Then, for several hours I got to play in an earthy way, with things made of wood and glass. I needed to remind myself to put the lens cap back on the lens after focusing, before removing the dark slide from the film holder. Everything was alien, and yet familiar. It came back with a sweet memory. Again, I went back to the school boy timer…..”one thousand one, one thousand two…”, like in some hide and seek game with light and shadow. The exposure on the old french darlot lense was 4 seconds at f22, then I quickly put the lenscap back on the lens. It has no shutter.

I went to the darkroom, familiarizing myself again with the beakers, the formulas of the chemistry, the gralab timer. Jeez, I could screw up at any point and ruin the film. I could only develop one sheet at a time, having slipped it sideways in a curve inside the 1-liter Paterson tank, emulsion side in. I was using the two part Pyrocat HD developer, which leaves a brown stain on the film, and was so beautiful it could be a finished picture in negative form.

The whole process was so antique compared to what I had been living with in my photography for such a long time. Every part of it could have been a century ago, or timeless…what men had dealt with before they knew about things binary. But in a hybrid affliction I scanned the film into my computer to print on my epson. It is all pretty awesome, but I didn’t know it would be, till I actually went thru the compete process. Now, I need to do it again and again. The 5×7 is no longer a monolith in the corner, but of real use. I won’t leave digital either – I am a heretic to nothing. I move through the shadows, enticed towards the unmentioned taboo by two lovers, for one alone cannot satisfy me.

Written by Ken Smith

March 9th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Equipment,Still Life

free ranging

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It seems like I am all over the place in images presented in this journal…..a nude, a flower, a pilot, a chicken. They have one thing in common. They are the pages turned in my photographic adventure. Something in common might be they are all an attempt to express a moment, or transcend that moment. There is something ‘behind’ every thing that is consciously seen, and maybe the quest in my work, is the attempt to express that mystery.

This image is of a neighbor’s proud free range chicken. It was photographed with a Salyut-C Hasselblad look-alike, Vega 120mm f2.8 lens, and Macophot 100 speed film. The Vega is my favorite lens on this camera.

Written by Ken Smith

March 4th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Fauna

el escorial

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I am still thinking about Spain. When I lived in Madrid, I would make weekend trips out into the countryside. A couple of times I visited El Escorial, a monastery and palace built by Felipe II in the last half of the 1500s.

This image of the monastery and gardens was made with my trusty Canon F1 on Tri-X film.

Below, is another image of a beautiful hallway in the building.

Written by Ken Smith

March 3rd, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Travel

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