Save your “Likes” buy a print? (if you can)

I wrote this post a few days ago and then when I reread it I felt like perhaps I was coming across as a world class a$%hole. I thought, “What right do I have to condemn anything, especially when it comes to supporting someone or something?” so I decided to delete the post. Then I promptly forgot about it. Then I read it again. I’m still not sure, but that is what you are here for. To make your own decision. I’m obviously not against support, read the post, just stunned by how much stock we put in something like a single keystroke, often times lost in the hundreds of billions of keystrokes. On the other hand that makes me think of another post. Last year I ran into someone who as spending every waking second plotting the development of his social media following. He was up in the near one million followers category and someone said “Geez, you must me making some serious coin from that.” “I haven’t make a penny yet,” he responded. Someone said “What’s the point of it all?” There was no answer. So, this is my take on this scenario.

What is a “Like” really worth?

You click, you move on. How many of these do we do in a given day? “Wow, thanks for the like.”

Now return to the real world where you find yourself standing at the counter at the local dealer holding a bottle of developer in one hand and a bottle of fix in the other. You need both, but you can afford only one. Where is the like? Can you use it for barter? Can you tell the salesperson, “Hey, you should see how many likes I got.” “Any chance I can trade those likes for this fixer?” “Seriously, a lot of people I don’t even know are telling me I’m awesome and liking pretty much everything I do.” That has to be worth something right?

I’ve thought a lot about this online reality. It’s my fault for doing so. I’ve formed a few opinions, spent much time watching, and am still so puzzled by it all, so puzzled by the addiction to check in and see who is providing the much needed electronic nurturing. And I wonder how much more the artist could have accomplished had they not spent so much time online and fractured their skull and attention by trying to consume so, so much.
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So when I encountered Jeff Frost a few months back, and he told me what he was working on, I thought to myself “Well, that sounds admirable….how can I get involved?” Jeff was up to his normal shenanigans, spending weeks and months in strange, twisted places consumed by broiling temperatures, dust, periodically hostile locals; left alone with only the thoughts in his talented little head. And believe me, most of us are unprepared for what is floating in Jeff’s head. He’s an artist after all.

Jeff explained to me a new print idea he’d hatched, editions of one, 24×36, printed by Mac Holbert. “I’m in,” I said. “I want two.”

Let me back up.

I like Jeff. I like Jeff’s work. I admire his tenacity. I know A LOT of photographers who have yet to discover their inner fire, but he found his a long time ago. He is relentless, and again, he is working in places that are not easy to be, doing difficult time consuming work but yet he’s there, time and time again because he is possessed. I have great admiration for this. A lot of people stand around and wait for handouts. They wait for donations, or the perfect setup or situation. Jeff just makes work. He finds a way. His odometer was somewhere near 250,000 the last time I looked. These were HARD miles. Dusty. Four-wheel-drive access only. No air conditioning. A little puff of smoke with the turn of the key.

There is a madness to these things. So when it came time to get involved I bought prints. They were expensive, at least for me, and so was the framing. The prints are BEAUTIFUL. Loading them in the car and the person helping said “God these are cool.” True, they are. They are Jeff. Every minute of his childhood walking the hills of Utah with his grandfather, learning about cave paintings. Every second of his staring at the stars and learning what was where and why. Every second of his art training. Every MILE on that odometer is in these prints. I know because I went out there and watched. I got a little dust on my boots. Just once, but enough to know.

These prints aren’t going anywhere, including on the wall anytime soon. You see, I don’t have the space to hang them but I got them anyway. I don’t care if they lean against the wall until I move in the distant future. It was important to me because I know how important it is to Jeff. The career of an artist is a battle. What Jeff does, or any artist for that matter, is their business. I’m not condemning promotion. I’m just saying there is a big, big difference between tossing out a “Like” and really getting involved. So what is your time worth? What is your word worth? And before I go any further, in addition to respecting what Jeff does…I LOVE THESE IMAGES. I don’t buy to collect, although it’s kinda cool to know I’m the only one to have these two images at this size, I buy because I love the actual work. Same for my books. I buy things because I want to look at them, again and again, for YEARS at a time. I’m fortunate to be able to afford these, something I do not take for granted. I work hard. I spend hard. I felt my support would lead to tangible, real-world results, like gasoline, paint, cameras, food, etc. I don’t know for sure, but that was my intention. I’m only saying these things because I think most people have a good heart. They mean well, and they want to help, but these online support things of today are often times just noise that doesn’t swing the bar outside of the site itself and the corporations buying your personal information. When you buy direct, when you get involved in a concrete way, its spawns potential for real innovation, experimentation, failure and the breakthrough.

The real, tangible world is out in front of us, starting just beyond the screen. This is the world I choose to live in. It’s fantastic in ways beyond your dreams. Like it or not.

PS: My wife came home at midnight so tired she walked right past these babies without even a notice. She is going to scratch her head and say “What have you done now?”

Milnor_Blurb_Jeff_Frost_Signing_B&W_005
Jeff holding a print of an image I made of him on our first shoot. California desert, 2014.

24 responses to “Save your “Likes” buy a print? (if you can)”

  1. lionelB says:

    Easy. You buy the fixer and soup the film in coffee.

    A ‘like’ is just a tool in data profiling. The emotional attachment operates at the same trivial level as the sense that the jackpot must be close because that last set was so, so near. [Spoiler alert : they were so near because the gaming corporations rig their machines to generate near misses]

    Dan, you are not being an a$%hole for wishing that people show a little less readiness to be manipulated.

  2. stephanie says:

    Thanks for not hitting delete. Real always trumps the artificial world of all things electronic and social media related. For me anyway.

  3. David says:

    Dan, I think most people are too quick with a like in FB. it means very little, in most cases. Those who can afford it, should consider supporting the work of artists. I like the approach Ernesto Bazan uses when you buy his work; that is, he thanks you for supporting his work, especially when you purchase one of his limited edition books, which by the way are stunning. I don’t think of collecting. instead, it is something I want to look at over and over and, a way to support someone’s work/passion.

    nice post!

  4. Mike says:

    I don’t do social media, I comment on very few sites. The best compliment you can pay a photographer is to want to own some of their work; either a print or a book. That’s a real like.

    Mike.

  5. Tim says:

    I used to use Facebook alot when I was at school, mostly because everyone else around me had it.
    Then I deleted my account and took three years out and felt I’d really changed as a person. I got an account a couple of months ago and can already feel the addiction taking hold again. It’s awful for my motivation.
    I don’t think a ‘like’ carries much weight. Nowhere near as much as saying ‘I like your work, I’d love to buy a print.’ You might argue that to some people, social media is a kind of shortcut to finding an audience.
    Unfortunately, as with many things in life, there are no real shortcuts.

  6. Laidric says:

    While I do agree that “likes” get tossed around a bit, it can be the ground floor for monetizing your work: my biggest social media network that I’m involved with is the polarizing Instagram. I follow quite a few photographers because I like their work, I actively comment on photos they put up, and I have purchased zines, prints etc that they have promoted using Instagram. But I think that the key is how many “real fans” of you and your work that you have, it’s better to have a hundred people that follow you and will buy a print / book / zine / whatever, than 200,000 who all they do is hit that heart button…

  7. Laidric says:

    Daniel,

    Exactly! I was trying to remember if it was fans or friends, this is that article you’re talking about:

    http://kk.org/thetechnium/2008/03/1000-true-fans/

  8. Joe says:

    Jeff’s approach reminds me of Pressfield’s “War of Art”, and his mantra, ‘ do the work. ‘ Thanks for keeping this essay available.

  9. Dan, I cannot tell you how much I needed to read this. Really good timing is everything after all.

  10. edd carlile says:

    Nothing wrong at all with your post. I hear what you are saying loud and clear.I try to support photographers by buying their work though it’s all kept in storage till I find a place to call.home then I can hang it.
    I am sick to death of people telling me how distinctive and beautiful my photography is….then fucking buy some of it!!!!!!

    I’m with you on this.

    Edd

    • Smogranch says:

      Edd,
      Photography has lost a lot of it’s thunder post digital era. Take one look at the stock industry. Rights managed. The art world still holds some value, but with 100,000 plus snappers all wanting in it’s just not going to be able to support everyone. I think photography will continue to be a fantastic personal endeavor but will continue to fade as a profession, with the exception of a few.

  11. DJ says:

    Often times I want to purchase a print and the photographer doesn’t make it easy for me to do so!

    I don’t want to jump through hoops, search your representation through an art gallery, deal with dead links or email you for more information; I want to click, enter my payment information and have the art, on it’s way, sent to me.

    It doesn’t matter to me if it is a 10 dollar zine, a small $35.00 print, a piece of handmade jewelry, or a $400 silver – gel fiber print; don’t make me work so hard to find out how to purchase your art from you! Especially if it is late at night or I have to hit the road at 5 a.m for a road trip. I run out of time before I can figure out how to get to your art, and then it is usually forgotten about, and I am onto a new artist who makes it easy for me as a consumer.

    I am not a serious collector of artwork, but I am a purchaser of birthday gifts, wedding presents, anniversary gifts etc. I like to change up my home décor with the seasons.

    So as much as I would like to purchase artwork from several artists, I find it much too frustrating to do so.

    What that has done, is shifted my mindset, I found a few artists I like that make it easy for me to purchase from, and now I tend to follow them and purchase from them, and sadly, I don’t bother much with a new piece or new artist I may like via internet.

    I have also gotten off the computer a bit and headed to small festivals and such, where I can buy in person, and support local artists; one to one – directly.

    I recently started traveling twice a month, out of state, 12 hour drive each way.
    Internet service is spotty, wifi has hardly any service bars; so am I going to fight with a computer screen or visit / drive to local shops? I love to see new things, new art, new creative ideas.

    If you are not making sales, maybe it is time to revisit your sales and marketing methods.

    Think about your customer base. The time strapped consumer. The mom with 3 young children.
    The guy who is forced to work “mandatory” overtime- he has the cash, but not the time because he is working 21 days in a row or double shifts.

    I know this doesn’t apply to everybody, but if you are getting “likes” and low sales- take a look at things.

    Just wanted to pass along some insight from the buyers perspective.

    I like the article you posted Dan and I am glad that you “undeleted” it !

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey DJ,

      As for me, not trying to sell any prints at this, nor have I ever tried to sell prints, and I’m not on social, so likes are also of no value to me. I was speaking out those supporting artist by liking something on social. That ultimately doesn’t amount to much. If someone makes it difficult to actually buy something then that’s on them. Strange. In this day and age it shouldn’t be difficult, but ultimately if you are out and about and seeing work in person that is fantastic. I would much rather buy in person than online, especially when buying something like a print.

  12. DJj says:

    I’ve been off grid. Traveling. When this post first appeared I wanted to purchase a print from Jeff, when you click on his “print” button it brings you back to Smogranch post. Got to wonder, how many others may have wanted to purchade from him? Sometimes we can only buy over web, we live so far from the artist. It is all good ! I just wish some artisits would see the potential missed opportunity by not making it easy for a client to purchase artwork we love. Keep up the good work over at Smogranch !

    • Smogranch says:

      DJ,
      I would email him. His print strategy is rather complex, and probably not something that he could explain easily online. Or better yet…call him. I’ve never bought an image online, but probably wouldn’t buy anything without speaking directly with the artist to get the marrow of what they are doing and why. The only hitch here…if they are dead…….
      I’m sure he would love to sell you a print. And he’s a super easy guy to talk with.

  13. anne corr says:

    Great post – you are inspiring – interesting work in your Artifacts- jright up my virtual street.

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