Photographers, and I suppose all Artists, seem to be obsessed with "exposure". "How can I get my name out there?" they ask. "I want to sell prints," they say. They want to reach people. Well, of course. We all want to reach people, I suppose, to one degree or another.
As I've noted ad nauseum, and as everyone knows anyway, there's a lot of photographers out there. Rising above the mass is somewhere between hard and impossible.
But here's what I am doing, philosophically. I didn't invent it, I'm not even in the vanguard. But it's a thing. Think Small. What I mean is to envision how your art exists in a much smaller universe, a much smaller audience. There's a lot of really great art out there. There are a lot of supremely talented people making it. There's way way way too much for the traditional gallery-industrial complex to digest.
Sure, there are slums you can run around in and try to rise to the top of (flickr, etc, I've talked about those at... some length, let's just say, to be kind). If you read this blog regularly you probably don't want to mess with that, but if you do, well, it's more about social networking than pictures, so get networking.
You can go professional. It's a lot of work, but there's your audience. The clients are your audience. It's a small universe of people who like your work well enough to pay cash money for it. There's a lot of business work here, invoicing, driving, marketing, sales, etc. Maybe your thing, maybe not. Definitely not my thing, but it's well established that I'm a weirdo.
What else? Let's say that, like me, you fancy yourself a bit of an artist, but you don't see the need to make money at it? Suppose you decide to take my advice, and just try to reach a few people?
The easiest approach is to simply give people Art. Just give it to them. They will, in general, love it. You can leave it in the street for anyone to pick up, you can hand it to a stranger, you can hand it to a friend. Whatever. Congratulations, you just reached someone.
You can collaborate. You and two other artists make something, and create your own audience at the same time. Congratulations, you just reached two people, and you have some cool Art that you had a hand in, but which is more than that. Well done.
This is basically just the indie/DIY model that's been with us for a while now. 'zines. homemade albums. street art. street performance.
The thing is, don't be a lazy ass just because it's small. We've got plenty of idiots running around out there doing things badly.
If you're going to reach out and touch one person, one living breathing feeling human being in the middle of a life that began with birth, will end with death, and most likely will contain love and hate and terror and laughter and all the fullness of life, don't you owe it to yourself and that one person to give them the very best you can do?
It's not marketing, either. The goal isn't to generate the Big Break. The act is the goal.
Because, ultimately, fuck the MOMA, fuck the Guggenheim. If you can weasel a piece of Art into there, is anyone really going to care? Or will they just see it on the wall, and nod sagely knowing that the wisdom of the Curatorial Staff Has Decreed this good?
Hand a stranger a print, or a book, or some beautiful made object. No quid pro quo no nothing. "Here. I made this. Take it. It's yours." How much more powerful is that, than the same stranger looking at some incomprehensible installation in a museum or gallery?