Thursday, March 18, 2010

A different trip

In February of 2006, my friend Alice and I set off with our two daughters on a trip through Washington, Oregon, and California in search of a college our girls could attend together.

She brought along a CD of Vusi Mahlasela for us to listen to as we drove, and what I remember most about the trip (other than UC Santa Cruz, which we all adored, despite the rain) was driving through the fertile valleys of California on a dreary rainy afternoon, past endlessly beautiful landscapes, shooting them through the windows of the car and the gray and the rain, knowing the images would be hopelessly flawed and would never capture the true glory of the landscape.

This is one of those images, and I love it for all the things it says to me about that trip, and about possibility and yearning: it's yet another of life's examples of this truth: that listening to our yearnings (in this case, the desperate yearning to shoot despite the conditions) may actually give more powerful results than getting what we thought we wanted. I'm frankly not sure a sunny day's drive in the same spot with my GOOD camera would give me anything like what I got in that February rain with the cheap point'n'shoot I dragged along on that excursion.

I mention this partly because my friend Joyce returned to the blogging scene this morning after what has felt like a long absence with news about her job status that's really exciting to hear. And the fact that she got there by following her yearnings, not her intentions, is what got me started on this post. But mostly these questions arise because I got word last night that this image was one of 71 selected from a field of 2400 to be exhibited in the Minneapolis Photo Center's exhibit on Landscapes. I was ecstatic when I got the news -- but then, as I began filling out all the forms, I realized that just putting the image (which will have to be small because of the various factors that influenced its origin) in the exhibit will cost me quite a bit, even without factoring in what it cost to enter the contest in the first place. Since they get a 40% commission, I'll have to raise the price quite a bit to cover costs -- so much so that it may be more money than anyone will wish to spend on such a small image.

These are the economic realities I face any time I enter an exhibit, of course -- and they're worse when the galleries take their usual 50%. But it does make me question -- exactly how much is this honor worth to me? And more importantly, how much is the honor of showing and selling EVER worth to me? If I'm in it for the money, this is not the career to be in; that's for certain. And if I'm in it for the visibility, well, that's a long slow climb for sure.

Which is why it's good to remember the insight I had a few years back: that I shoot because of what my camera has to tell me about myself and the world. And I blog as a way to share those insights, and that's really enough. Those parts of me that care about money and recognition will need to take their baggage elsewhere, on some other trip. Because this one has another destination in mind entirely.

We may be riding in a broken-down beater of a car -- or Alice's comfy Subaru -- and we may not be exactly sure what that other destination will be -- or where our daughters will end up. But I promise you words of encouragement and laughter along the way, and some occasional music to lighten the grays -- and thank you for joining me. And just let me add: hats off to Alice, whose caring heart still comes through when I need her most!


Maureen said...

Wonderful post, Diane.

I've been thinking a lot, too, about submissions, only mine are of poetry. What I find is that everyone charges what is called a "reading fee", which ranges anywhere from $15 to $50 or more, even when electronic submissions are permitted (and few are yet). That fee adds up quickly when one begins to make multiple submissions. I know I write because it's a passion; it always has been and ever will be. And I've gotten this far without the recognition, so while admitting I like a rub and a pat as well as anyone, I'm just going to do what I do and let the pieces fall as they may.

I love your image, how the foreground catches your view before the mountains do, the two then tugging for attention. The foreground becomes the stronger until you look up and out. Continue looking up and out.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... it is an honor and a very beautiful image ... but the honor is in the acceptance and acknowledgment ... you don't actually have to send it in. This rubbing together of art and money is a very tricky dance.

Jayne said...

Oh, I'd think just the honor would be enough for me. To fork out $$ to be able to sell it (and truly, isn't it priceless?) somehow would not appeal to me. No one can pay you what it was worth to be in that moment.