Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thinking About the Future

About a week ago I had the chance to tour the space that should ultimately become my working studio. It was tiny, probably much tinier than most professional photogs would ever consider, but I'm hardly a professional and the bohemian aspect of working out of such a history rich locale is too drool-worthy to pass up. Today, one week later and one week before lease signing, I find myself staring at the nebulous nature of this significantly large step toward my ultimate goal of being a professional, recognized photographer.

I suppose the most obvious question to answer in regards to why I'm making this investment is what leasing a private studio space will enable me to do that I can't already. And while that question seems simple enough to answer, at the same time it is difficult to do so convincingly. The foremost purpose of a dedicated studio space is for studio photography, be it with models, products, what have you. This was the original driving force behind my hunt for a studio earlier this year. I wanted to photograph models, but no respectable model is interested in working with a photographer whose idea of a studio shoot involves rearranging his living room furniture, putting up bedsheets and setting up shop lamps. It isn't even the budget lighting/background that break the illusion of professionalism, it's the "My house is my office" idea. Unless I owned a home with a dedicated room for studio shooting, any and all attempts to convince working models to collaborate with me would sound like either horrible pick-up lines or amateur posing. Having a studio is like having an office - it's a matter of projecting a sense of establishment, a good foundation and indication that one is quite genuinely serious about the service provided. So okay, major reason number 1 to justify making this leap verified.

From that single point forward, justification becomes incredibly abstract.

Another facet of the artistic process that this studio will (hopefully) facilitate is a matter of collaboration. Human beings inevitably adopt the attitudes, traits, driving motivations, etc. projected by those with whom he/she associates/is around. To a degree I feel I am more impacted by this subconscious influence than others. Case in point, a little over a year ago I had the opportunity to make a very good friend who continues to be among the best I have. Aside from the common perspectives we share and mutual hobbies, I noticed that when we would go out and photograph together my work came out... well, better. When on a shoot we would bounce ideas off one another by the subtlest influences and both our work reached an incredible new level compared to the grade of work we produced before. Our eyes and minds spoke to each other and we learned new ways to approach a scene to produce the strongest possible image. That kind of collaborative influence only seems to occur when an artist is in the presence of another artist, and the location of this studio in a 15 story tower of naught but dedicated studio spaces, all with working artists within, surely will lead to some great collaborative efforts and learning. From tours alone, I've experienced the atmosphere of artists working with artists to strengthen each others'  skill sets, and I've no doubt that such a well of knowledge and experience will only impact me in intensely positive ways.

The final major perk entering my thoughts right now is immersion into the artistic process. As it stands, after a photo shoot I will return home and walk into a wall of distractions. No sooner than when I kick my shoes off there is a television staring me in the face which is occasionally on with a roommate memorized and beckoning me to join the hypnosis. Should I pass this obstacle there is my pet bearded dragon to be taken care of (which isn't so begrudging, really, but in terms of getting from the point A of taking photos to point B of processing photos it is another thing in the way). Often the kitchen, living room or bathroom is an awful mess in need of some manner of cleaning, one more obligation to take care of. And finally, by the time I reach my bedroom and set down my camera, at least one of the roommates is playing a PC game and I'm influenced to join in the mindless fun. Now, on their own, none of these things is bad, after all we all need to clean, take care of our pets and squeeze in some fun. The problem in terms of the artistic process is that once these distractions take hold and have consumed some manner of time after a shoot, the motivation to process the images drops near to nil and the original imaginings of those images' potential is forever lost after 3 episodes of House and 2 hours of Bad Company 2. It has been a very long time since I've managed to go straight shot to process, and although not essential I feel my strongest images were made when one step occurred right after the other. With a dedicated studio there are no distracting TVs, chores to interrupt or roommates to tilt the balance between work and play. As such, the immersion factor in the art process itself, being in a space dedicated to and entirely surrounded by that process, would certainly enable me greater focus, higher turnaround for working assignments and a tighter streamline from imagined idea to exacted rendering. Much as art is a matter of fun, there is an element of work to the artistic process, and like an accountant or real estate agent working from home, a degree of isolation is needed to best complete the task at hand.

All those abstract points out of the way, the last item circling my mind is how to arrange the space. But that's a simple matter of planning arrangement and aesthetic. I've concluded that the first month at least will be consumed by restoration and clean-up, a layer of fresh paint and polished floors a must. Furniture is still a matter of issue as it will need to be modular yet attractive, functional when the studio is used for post-process work but also small or collapsible to allow maximum space for studio sessions. Aesthetics will come into play on the monthly gallery shows, with unique lighting and clever arrangement of printed work a must. I'm also thinking of visiting some of my old haunts and picking up some artifacts to play show and tell with when a random visitor shows above average interest. Unfortunately, I'll be running on a tight budget with all of this unless it winds up being a return investment early on. Much as I'd like things to be new, most of my assets will probably be hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart specials. Oh well, there will be plenty of time to upgrade in the future. Sometimes I forget one learns to crawl before walk.