Art Isn't About Art

A few days ago I made the following post to Twitter:

Art isn’t about art anymore. It’s about how many recognizable names of other people and companies you can put next to the YouTube link in your bio.

This is something that I’ve been noticing a lot since getting into photography and reaching out to models that I want to work with, but it is something that I first started noticing about ten years ago when music was my main focus and having rappers interested in beats. The art doesn’t sell itself anymore, everyone is buying or looking for a cosign from recognizable names or brands.

To go back to 2008, my first acknowledgement of this was when a friend of mine was playing music that I’d given to her to write to in the presence of her friend(s). She sent me a text telling me that rapper Joe Schmoe (I honestly don’t remember his name) liked one of the beats I’d given her and asked if he could use it, or how much I wanted for it; something to that effect. And once she relayed my initial price to him his response was that he didn’t feel he should pay that because I haven’t worked with so and so known name rapper and he has worked with other so and so known name rapper and has be played on this and that. Cool. But I’m not looking to work with you because of who you’ve worked with. You’re looking to work with me because what you heard me create is dope. Right?

That kind of put me in a bad place when it came to working with people in music. But fast forward 8 years. Now I’m in the photography field attempting to get into shooting models. I always aim big and for what I want regardless of what is “out of my league”, so naturally, once I think I can use my camera well enough I start reaching out to models I find that I want to work with, and although most of the responses that I didn’t get from some are for the same reason I just mentioned (thinking they’re out of my league professionally) a few threw out the responses that took me back to what I got from the rapper 8 years prior, but not so dismissive: “…I’ve/they’ve worked with so and so, and have done this and that for this company and that brand"…” This is when I realized that what we’re doing isn’t about art anymore.

A resume is good to have. But I feel that in a field where your work is visual or auditory, who you’ve worked with or for doesn’t matter, but what’s important is the work you’ve produced. A list of people you’ve worked with isn’t what attracted me to work with you, it’s the work of yours that I’ve seen or heard. Likewise, listing off people you’ve worked with or companies you’ve worked for when approaching someone you want to work with, I feel, isn’t a good idea unless they’ve asked; which leads me to another incident and complaint.

Earlier this year I reached out to a model, through their manager, about potentially working with them on something. The three things that I was asked after a greeting in the email were:

  • Where is the content going?

  • Who are you shooting for?

  • What agencies have you worked with?

(I fixed up the poor grammar that I received in the email here. That was something that bothered me when reading a response to a professional business email.)

Now! I won’t say that I full understand the modeling work, but this individual that I was reaching out to models, but I wouldn’t say they are in the modeling field as you consider it when you think “model”; I’m being vague here intentionally, but the first two questions I see as acceptable questions, but the last one… What’s the significance? I provided you all of the information that you needed to see the quality of my work in my initial email to you, so what does who I’ve worked with have to do with whether or not you would want to work with me or not. That’s cool. I’ll answer your questions nicely. But being that my answer to that last question didn’t impress them they weren’t interested in working.

I say all of this to ask: When did art go from the art itself to the name of the artists involved as a branding of that name specifically is what makes it good or makes them worth working with?

Everything above was just past instances of this, but what made me post that original tweet and go on this long rant about art not being about art anymore came from the fact that I’ve gotten to work with a lot of people that I’ve had my eye on working with in the photography world over the past year. All of these people were people who either were willing to take a risk on working with someone they hadn’t worked with before to see what would come of it or had the ability to see what would come from a collaboration. That said. A lot of people, a lot of people that I’ve reached out to in the past, weren’t willing to take that chance or did not have that ability… OR were looking for an approval in the form of a recognizable name that I’d already worked with. How do I know this is the case? After some of the work that I’ve done this year has been made available to those watching, some of these same people who weren’t interested in doing some of the same things that I’d just done have popped up out of nowhere willing to work. Because they can see what I was trying to do now that it’s been done. And that really puts me in the same situation that I was put in 12 years ago when dealing with Joe Schmoe rapper guy. Don’t take the risk or look pass the surface and see what something is really about, let someone else do that then come back and work your way back in when the work has already been started.

I also contribute the dozens of emails that I’ve sent out throughout the year that have gone unanswered to this; some to the fact that people are just unable to check and respond to emails. Which is unfortunate because everyone I’ve reached out to, I feel, I had really great ideas that I would have at least liked to thrown at them and got an “I like it” or an “it’s not for me”, but a lot of those will forever be unknown (I give up on emails if they aren’t responded to within 5 days; 24 hours if it’s a reply to a reply that I’m waiting for).

But I do want to give a big thank you to all of the people who have taken the time to work with me and gotten me to the place where all of the people who weren’t paying attention are not popping back up because they’re seeing name and/or faces they recognize, or just seeing the dope work that I was trying to do with them. A collective thank you. This year has been somewhat busy, and there would be too many people to thank individually; even though I can do it because this is a blog post that can be as long as I want it, but I’ll thank them all in another form.

This was my end of the year rant, and hopefully the beginning of me using the blog portion of this site more; I used to like writing, but I’m an adult now with too many adult things going on and don’t have the time to focus on it as much as I’d like to. I have some big this planned for the next 12 months. One that is currently in the works now and a few more that are in the planning stages. So keep your eyes open for a lot of visual projects (everything is project from here on) and a couple of auditory ones as well.

Bishop Jackson