What photograph would I buy

The topic sometimes comes up during conversation: what photograph would I buy? A valid way to look at your own art is: would I buy that?

Part of my motivation to make photographs is that I want to become better. I want to learn and develop as an artist, to be able to create stunning works that are insightful and emotionally deep. This does not come easy, few artists start by creating their best work and those that do are often tragic figures. Ascending that learning curve, which goes on indefinitely I imagine, costs time and energy. I would like to reach a pretty high point on it this lifetime. To do this I need to spend more time on photography. Ideally some kind of compensation would be generated by people buying the photographs, this way the development is sustainable.

Reasoning this way one easily falls into the trap of pleasing an audience. This is not the way of the artist. It is very important to keep creating work that you yourself want to create or are drawn to create in some way. You have to feel at home with your own work and be proud of it. No shortcuts or tricks, always deliver your best, go all in.

“…the ultimate measure of a photographer’s life is the courage to follow his or her eye, even if it appears to lead to obscurity.” (I read this in an online discussion once and it stuck.)

Today, I went through my archives, thinking about what photograph I would buy if I had a nice bungalow and needed some wall space filled. I could come up with only one. A rational choice, because it appeals to me for the contradictions it holds. Motion versus stillness, natural greens versus artificial blues, wood versus steel, randomness versus patterns, the sense of confinement between blue containers looking up towards the moving nature, freedom maybe. From now on I will more often, while creating a photograph, think about whether I would buy it to hang on my wall.

Photo Joeri van Veen 2009

Originally published on my blog. Notes while republishing here:

  • Now that I am older I have some specific art that I like and that I am saving up for. The paintings of Tjebbe Beekman and Hugo Tieleman and the photography of Awoiska van der Molen and Desiree Dolron come to mind.
  • I discussed the concept of shooting photographs and not even liking them later with artist Dagmar van Weeghel. She has her work hanging in her own house, it forms a meaningful part of her life. No way would she even think about making a photograph that she would not want to own. It’s a very strong base.
  • After passing my second year exam at the Fotoacademie last summer I had to take a break from photography. For the most part I was still pleasing an imaginary audience. I am now looking into myself to see who’s there. And what does he want.
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