By Libby Rooney
Throughout history, artists have needed to find creative solutions to the problems of making a living and also funding the making of art. Photography, a relatively new art form, has its own set of problems and interesting solutions, some social and some cyber. Artist and professional coops, online communities and photography apps are making photography less expensive and creating creative communities for artists to grow and learn.
Always on the lookout for an interesting site to hold a photo shoot, Shane Baker, award–winning, Chandler–based photographer, stumbled into Miami, Arizona about a year ago. Miami is a photographer’s dream. Echoes of the past linger in deserted buildings, shabby-not-chic hundred–year–old houses are perched precariously on steep slopes, and stairways climb up the hillside to destinations unseen. Perfect settings for interesting photo shoots.
Baker is the founder of Arizona Creative Professionals, a “community” of photographers, videographers, models, makeup artists and designers. He was inspired by the idea of creating opportunities for photo shoots without the high cost generally involved and that most freelance artists cannot afford. Photography is a costly endeavor. A fashion photographer, or any photographer using a model, must also take into account the cost of paying the many professionals involved: makeup artists, lighting technicians, designers, and, of course, models. To create a high–quality photograph a team of skilled professionals is necessary, and, for the individual artist hoping to get into this very competitive market, the struggle is real.
Yes, there are photography groups that have been formed with the intent of easing this struggle. The group hires a model, a makeup person, lighting expert – whatever they need for the shoot, and share the costs. On the day of the shoot the photographers show up at the site, they crowd around the one model while tripping over each other, camera shutters blinking, everyone trying to get the perfect angle, capture the models Mona Lisa moment and hope to create at least one professional photograph for their portfolio.
The concept of sharing costs does help the artists, but the difficulty of trying to get a good shot while maneuvering around the different photographers and complying to the fashion, makeup and ambiance decisions of the group or group leader, limits creative decisions by the individual artists.
Frustrated, Baker stepped up to find a better solution. The idea of Arizona Creative Professionals, created three years ago, is simple. First, the group is open to be all inclusive to many creative and professional people, not limiting the group to only photographers.
That way, a bigger “pool” of creative talent is created. When they go on a shoot, there may be several models, a body painter, a makeup artist, a videographer, lighting technicians and costume designers. The individual artists can spread out and be creative, not having to follow a shared group theme because there are numerous teams rather than just a single model and one professional crew. Second, the artists share their work with each other in a barter system, which cuts costs drastically. Third, none of the artists or professional crew can exhibit their work without giving equal credit and recognition to all the creative professionals involved. That’s the reason that the behind-the-camera professionals have an interest in being members of the group. These are the ground rules of ACP, and the approximately 300 members, mostly from the Valley, are enjoying the benefits. Posted on the group’s Facebook page, “Our goal is to have fun, learn, share.”
Photographer Rodrigo Izquierdo took part in the Miami photo shoot last year and returned to exhibit his work at this year’s Miami Loco Art Festival in April. Excited about ACP, Izquierdo has joined the administrative team to support and help more artists learn and grow through the opportunities created. Izquierdo discovered his love and skill at photography by accident and is self–taught. Like many photographers, he uses social media as a digital exhibit space, easily accessible to all and free. Social Media, like ACP, is another example of artists finding a cost–effective platform where they can receive support and learn from each other. Izquierdo posts his photographs in GuruShots, a social media gaming app. It is different from Instagram and classified as a game because participants compete to win prizes, which include participation in exhibitions and cash. Besides giving photographers the satisfaction of sharing their work internationally and the undeniable social-media “fix” from receiving a generous number of likes, it gives artists the opportunity to learn from other artists through their comments, their likes, and through observing the work of others. The app is free and open to all photographers; professional, novice and all levels in between.
“An interesting side story about Izquierdo:
…on September 11, 2001, a not yet professional photographer, he was working his shift as flight attendant for a Chilean Air flight that left JFK that morning and arrived in Chile as the second tower of the World Trade Center fell. The sudden drop in ticket sales after the terrorist attack brought on massive layoffs in the flight industry, Izquierdo among those affected. A citizen of Chile, he was at an unexpected crossroads in his life. With the severance pay he received from the airlines, he bought a ticket to California with the intent of improving his English so he could later return to Chile as a translator. As life happens not always according to plan, his English did improve but he has not returned to live in Chile. Instead, he fell in love with his future wife, and 15 years later is living in Phoenix, has a good job at a bank and is in the process of opening a photography and art studio downtown.”
The concept of art is constantly changing and always has. The mediums used to make art, the places where it is exhibited, the expectations of society to specific content, etc. Whether it’s graffiti in an alley or a museum exhibition, ancient cave drawings or digitally edited clips, seen on an iPhone in Instagram or developed in a darkroom on light sensitive bromide photographic paper; art will always be something that makes us stop and look a little longer. It may make us smile or cry, it may make a political statement or simply be an aesthetic representation of nature, and sometimes, it will leave us confused. Some art will only be noticed and appreciated after the artist has died. And yet, had those artists not made their art, the world would be a narrower, less inquisitive place today. Vive le Art!