I sometimes regret not having gone to an art school or pursued an MFA, not so much for the classroom education but for the benefits of being immersed in the field, of networking with other photographers on a similar path, of making industry connections. It's up to me now to find other ways to create those experiences, and so I was thrilled to attend Mary Virginia Swanson's "Finding Your Audience" photography marketing workshop in Tucson last month (and grateful to the Greater Columbus Arts Council for the grant that made it possible).
I flew west via Salt Lake City --- what an amazing landscape from the air. I can only imagine it's just as beautiful on the ground (I've never been!). And Tucson… any time in Tucson makes me happy, and I loved having a little time to explore the city, do some hiking, try new restaurants, and visit places I'd never been before.
Our five day workshop covered everything: the changing gallery scene, alternative markets, image licensing, funding, and publishing. Guest speakers presented "shorts" on topics ranging from Kickstarter campaigns to public art projects to writing and creating new work. We visited galleries and the Center for Creative Photography, where we met with conservators, curators, and educators.
One of my favorite parts of the workshop was our portfolio sharing night. Inspiring! Such a diverse and beautiful range of subject matter, style, technique, and presentation! I felt humbled. It's been so long since I shared my own work with others in a professional peer group, and I was surprised at how fulfilling it was to do that again.
Our final morning was spent at Swanee's house in the Tucson mountains. We poured over her immense collection of photography books and celebrated a birthday, enjoying more great conversation and delicious homemade pozole, all under the shade of desert trees and giant saguaros.
By far the most profound and unexpected outcome of attending this workshop is that I've come to a point of clarity about the intent and direction of my artistic projects: which ones matter the most now, which ones need to simmer a little longer, what needs to be done to move my work forward. One of my portfolios that has been stalled for years now has a vision, a name, and a potential format that has me excited about printing again. I think we all left Tucson with the feeling that our world had expanded. With a renewed sense of purpose and commitment not only to the making of our work, but to sharing it with others in any number of ways we might not have thought of.
What a life-changing five days.