Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Censorship vs. Artistic Integrity

It seems that my exhibition keeps hitting stumbling blocks the more I try to keep true to my vision, the more our puritanical culture gets in the way.
As many of you who have read these blogs know, this exhibition, "Censor This!" is a group of my more erotic work. I was given the freedom to show this body of work by a very opened minded gallery owner. Jason Pipper, owner of the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg, PA approached me with the idea of this show. The one thing he said to me was "I will not censor an artist, show what you want to show". Now how often does an artist hear that! So I took the ball and ran with it, producing 38 new pieces of work to compliment some of my more erotic existing images. Now since I went digital I really cannot print them myself. My computer is my 21st century enlarger and the lab I use, Miller's Professional Imaging is one of the best in the country and the lab I have been using for over a decade. I am calibrated with Miller so that I get exactly what I see on my monitor. The quality is superb and up until now I have had no issue with them printing my images. When I sent this batch of 38 images to the lab, only 32 came back, that along with the note I have posted above. It seems that someone on the lab floor was offended by my images and refused to print them. It went to their supervisor and then to the CEO of the company who said if you are uncomfortable printing them, then don't do it. He never even saw the images. In fact, the supervisor who called me to explain, never saw the images. He kept repeating the same line, "Miller's will not print those images." My work was censored by a lab tech - from Kansas, no less. It's not like they have to worry about model releases and the great debate about pornography and art that is raging on. All they had to do was print the entire batch. But no, this tech had the power to question the artistic integrity of the images and almost damage my show.
Almost because I was saved. Saved by McKenna Professional Labs. I called the lab and talked to a wonderful receptionist that said as long as there is nothing illegal there shouldn't be a problem with us printing the images. But I was still worried and actually lost sleep over it. Then today I received a phone call today for one of the top guys at the lab. Once he said his name and where he was calling from he laughed and said, "I bet you were expecting this call", I was. He explained to me that due to sexual harassment laws there was a potential for someone to claim that the printing of these 6 images could constitute a hostile environment. I understood, but my problem still was not solved, I still need these images printed. Then he added that since this could be an issue, he would print these images himself to make sure that I had them for the exhibition.
He saved the show and understood the artistic statement I was trying to make. He took it upon himself to make sure that I was satisfied and that I received the best customer service and quality of images that McKenna Labs gives all of their clients. Needless to say I am now a McKenna client for life and will no longer be using Miller's Imaging.
No flat out censorship, just an understanding conversation and a solution to a problem.
If anyone is in need of a professional photography lab I highly recommend McKenna Pro
I want to thank them so very much for saving my sanity and this exhibition.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mixed Signals

I have been a professional photographer for almost 25 years. In that time I have been a member of the Professional Photographers of America and for the last 5 years I have been a Certified Professional. What does this all mean? Well basically it means I have been paying the PPA dues for a lot of years for some sort of guarantee to the general public that I am actually a working professional. I also get a nifty magazine each month with topics ranging from marketing your studio to new products. Lately all the marketing articles have been on how to market in a slow economy and how to educate the photographic consumer on why they should choose a professional photographer and not an amateur. This would be interesting and beneficial if they really practiced what they preach, but the rest of the magazine is a dumbed down version of "How to be a pro in 10 easy steps". The articles are either of cheap tricks on how to kind of do what a real pro does without having the creative knowledge or hawking new gadgets for those who can't actually use their equipment. They are really starting to try and cookie cutter the industry and make more money for the association in the process. They sponsoring workshops by these so called Master photographers who for $99 can teach you how to shoot like a pro and how to create 50 poses in 10 minutes. So the same organization who was originally looking out for the true professional and pushing unique creative talents now is pandering to the amateurs with a Wal-Mart digital camera. Whatever happened to integrity, creativity and actually learning your craft?
I am a photographic artist, each client is unique and special and I try and treat them that way. But it seems "cheap" is starting to out-way quality and that is something I will not do. I will not compromise my artistic integrity for the sake of a quick buck. That is the reason that as stated in my previous post, that I am stepping back from the commercial retail location and focusing on the special commissioned portraits and weddings for people who expect a professional to actually be someone who has honed and worked at their craft and someone who takes pride in every image they take.
I don't begrudge the amateur weekend warrior but it is shameful that the organization that touts itself as being an organization for the working professional has lost it's own integrity, value and vision.