Your fine art vs. commercial career

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Helena Buzzeo, who was the senior VP of art buying at McCann, looked at my book and told me that she couldn’t show it to Exxon without a guy holding a wrench in their hand

via Stone Thrower.

There Are 12 Comments On This Article.

  1. Oh my. This is what I do. I shoot whatever I feel like, I make videos that I like. I take pictures constantly that I think are interesting. This is where the value of an agent comes in. My agent edits this huge flow of images into something sellable. I don’t interfere in the choices. I have no idea what sells, or how to make my work into something that the market place wants. Mind reading ad agencies is not my job. My job is to make the best pictures I can everyday. The agent’s job is to make money from them. So if they want to show the take with the wrench in hand, no worries. But if I am editing for a show or for a book project, then showing the wrench is not on my mind. What I am saying is that it all comes down to the edit that is presented.

    One other thing, the commercial art world is envious of the fine art world. So if you have the edit in your portfolio of the guy with the wrench, then you can drop into the conversation that your art show last week was a huge success, you get bonus points.

  2. Donnar Party

    Nice PR piece, Glasshouse.

    I like that they feature Ryan Pfluger as a “fine artist” just makin his way the only way he knows how: shooting in a conventional SVA style that I’ve seen in SVA grads’ books since 2003. He is just another SVA product, with work indistinguishable from EVERY OTHER SVA grad. Seriously. His stuff is well done, but its interchangeable with everything else out there. He is a commercial machine marketed as a fine artist.

    One thing Pfluger did that was a brilliant business move was his “project” of turning “his lens” on photo editors. An excuse to meet editors in person, show them how you work, and flater them with attention as a subject for an “art” piece. Its so crass, so false, its so . . . the business of photography NOW. As an aside, I personally can’t stand some of the PEs he shot, like Ms. MissBehave. Just vile people.

      • Donnar Party

        @Polly, I know, I’m in a mood. I had blocked his Catherine Opie rip offs from my mind and it brought it all back.

        • @Donnar Party,

          Just so you know, all the photo editors I shot were people that I had known for a long time and did not need to photograph in order to meet them in person and flatter them with attention.

          You may not consider me a “fine artist” but please don’t make judgement calls on a photographer in a public forum whom you obviously know nothing about personally.

    • @Donnar Party,

      I never understand why there are a few people in this industry who make such an effort to put other photographers down. As someone who has worked with Ryan Pfluger many times editorially, he is one of the kindest and most professional photographers I’ve met. He is doing what he does and it’s working for him commercially… and isn’t that what everyone hopes for? Don’t be bitter just because it is all coming together for someone else.

      • @Jennifer,

        I second that. Ryan’s done a great job on shoots for us and I don’t know of anyone who shoots in a style that’s interchangeable to his… which is why people like me keep hiring him.

  3. I have shot projects for oil services and shipping companies, and they are not always so obviously single minded in the types of images they want. While it is important to show images of ships to companies that work on or with ships, the uses they have for images will not always be that simplistic. One of my projects this year involved photographing cowboys roping cattle, and that was for a company that provides supplies for the oil and energy industries. While the cowboy images are almost a cliche for a company in Texas, it was far less obvious than images of pipes or warehouses. Just because someone has nails doesn’t mean you simply need to offer them a hammer.

    On the fine art end of things, I keep going with those efforts because these are self driven challenges, and a chance to experiment more. I have barely broken even with those fine art efforts, but I feel that I need to keep doing them too. If I only did commercial work, I would be less likely to find new ways of communicating with images. So I take the big chances with fine art images, and that allows me many well tested approaches that I can consider using in my commercial work. This practice is something I consider very complimentary.

  4. “I can guarantee that in any panel discussion on aesthetics someone will pick up the water pitcher and ask ‘Well, is this art?’ ”

    Claes Oldenburg

    “Every man is an artist.”

    Joseph Beuys

    “I’d rather leave than suffer this
    I’ll never be your monkey wrench”

    Foo Fighters

  5. ah yes, who hasn’t been there… got a call about shooting some guys in lab coats at a biotech company for their report. Great, people is my business. Oh you need example images of guys actually in lab coats to sell your client on? Engineers in a shop are not close enough… have to actually be in coats, gazing at test tubes or some shit like that.

    Lost the gig to some guy who sent them 20 year old images of guys in lab coats, with nice 1980s styling.

    c’est la vie, but you’re left wondering – is the client really that obtuse, or is the agency just lazy?