November 13, 2009

Wanna Buy Some Art? Only $19.95!

I received some very nice emails from the photographers of the istock photos I am using on this website. I also came across a very nice note on istock forums thanking me for letting the photographer know I’d used his photos. All of them said that I was the only, or one of the only, users to let them know that I’m using their art.

Yesterday, I read Janet Burroway’s "Best Advice" on Narrative. She has a lot of good things to say. One of my favorite lines was, on becoming a writer: “You may also be led to neglect not only bedtime but also sobriety, monogamy, hygiene, and solvency.” Also, “Writing for the masses is like marrying for money, an exhausting way to become a hooker.” What great lines! She also said, “Over the past forty years the commodification of writing has extended from the conglomerates to the publishers to the editors to the agents to the writers to the writing programs.”

As often happens, the conjunction of two things came together in my mind (while I was in the shower, where I do my best thinking). It hit me that the reason why the photographers weren’t getting notes from people using their photos, which are really their art, is because everyone views them as a commodity. And of course they are a commodity ~ the photographers put them on istock in order to be sold/licensed for use. But, as I’m taking a photography class, I realize the amount of work and the shear volume of photos that had to be taken in order to get that one good shot. And the photographers must love what they do, even if they’ve grown distant from that and begun to view it as a way to make a living as well. But I don’t think so. The beauty of the photos shows the love and care they have for it.

And I’m guilty of this, if guilt is the right word for such a complex phenomenon. I would love to be able to write fiction full time. But then that would mean I (and my family) would need to subsist on what I make as a fiction writer.

So I guess my take-away on this is that art is viewed impersonally as a commodity, and the ramifications of this extend far beyond merely selling stuff online. It permeates the very way we approach art, the things we take for granted. To own up to it: the things I take for granted.

What I’m Reading Today: My friend Nina McConigley’s story “Curating Your Life” in the last American Short Fiction. What a courageous and kickass story!

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