Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Current State of the ART Market Series # 3- Amy Stein- Photographer/Educator/Blogger

Amy Stein-Photographer/Educator/Art Blogger and Writer

Domesticated- Book by Amy Stein from the Domesticated Photo Series

Photo- Amy Stein-From the Halloween in Harlem Series

This is the third installment of profile /interviews for The Current State of the Art Market Series.

The turn this time is for Amy Stein whose great innovative photography goes beyond the wall and into the classroom and the world of publishing. Amy's DOMESTICATED book is a hit and so it is most of her photographic series like Stranded, Halloween in Harlem and Domesticated. Let's see what Amy has to say!

Ruben Natal-San Miguel- As an Educator, Do you ever discuss with your students topics regarding the Current state of the Economy and its impact in the ART market?

Amy Stein-I think it important to be as honest and forthright as possible with students and give them the fullest picture I can of what is required of an artist these day. Part of that education is an understanding of the market. On occasion a student will bring up the topic in class and I will address it to a point. A ready access to information and a heightened demand for immediacy has too many students focused on the market when they should be focused on making work and pushing their vision. I try to temper their market fixation tand refocus their energies back to their art.

RNSM- What about as a Photographer?

AS-As a working photographer you canʼt help but discuss the market with gallerists and fellow photographer friends. Many of my friends hit our stride during the boom years and thatʼs the only reality we know. We are still coming to terms with this new reality.

One thing Iʼve noticed is that uncertain times leads to a rise in gallows gossip.

RNSM- Has the current economic climate influenced your current photographic and your teaching approach?

AS-Not really. I have been mostly lucky as interest in my work continues to grow despite the collapse. What Iʼve discovered over the past few years is that there are only a small handful of artists who can make a decent living just selling their work. Most everyone else augments their income with commercial and editorial assignments, teaching, or regular jobs. I teach because I love to teach, but I also need the paycheck and the health insurance. A lot of emerging artists believe that they will be able to become full time artists and live this extravagantly bohemian existence just from the sale of their work. Itʼs a nice goal, but itʼs the exception not the rule.

RNSM- Have you notice any change in your students projects as being a direct reflection from it?

AS-I havenʼt seen the art market influence my students work, but I have to believe as the overall economy continues to drag down and the effects become more widespread, it is bound to inspire a project or two.

RNSM- Do you think it is important to instruct fine art students some or more business courses so, when they hit the professional and job market are better suited for?

AS-I think itʼs very important that they have the tools to market themselves and a good sense of how the industry works. I think this information is necessary, but it needs to be taught within the context of growing and sustaining your vision as an artist. You need to know how to sell yourself and your work, but more importantly, you need to know when you are ready to jump into the fray. You need to know the ins-and-outs of the business, but you also need to understand that all steps forward are not necessary or good for your career in the long run.

Both the SVA and Parsons where I teach address the market by offering courses by gallerists, reps, and folks who come from the business side of things.

RNSM- Who are your major inspirations for your work? People who you admire the most?

AS-My inspiration and admiration comes from the same sources: Alec Soth, Zoe Strauss, Brian Ulrich, Jeff Wall, and Robert Adams.

RNSM- Your blog is one of my favorites, I think it is mostly because your educational approach to it after all I come from a family of professional educators...Do your students read your blog?

AS-The ones that know whatʼs good for them do.

RNSM- What do you think this is a good time for an artist to do during this economic recession? Lower its prices? Had the dealer offer discounts to encourage sales? Develop smaller sized work @ lower prices? Increase visibility? Generate a art collectors base?

AS-The best thing an artist can do is make work. Ultimately, that is the only thing we have complete control over.

I would discourage people from lowering prices if they have already sold pieces because collectors will hunt you down and kill you. Photographers should print their work as appropriate for the content, not based on market conditions.

I think this is the best time to maximize your relationship with your gallery. You are in this together and both will benefit from your long term success, so work out a plan that you are both comfortable with and doesnʼt undermine your past or future achievements.

RNSM- As an Art collector ...Are you now seeking to buy more due the current discounts going on or you are waiting for a re-adjustment in the Art market?

AS-I am always looking for steals, but have learned to be a smarter collector. I focus on buying the exact pieces I want to own, not more affordable pieces by the same artist.

RNSM- Who would you like to collect the most from and why? Any names?

AS-Robert Adams is my personal hero and I would love to own several pieces from his American West series. Robert, if you read this, send me an email and weʼll trade.

RNSM- Does art collecting influence your work in any way?

AS-Colleting doesnʼt influence my work. They are separate pursuits. However, I imagine it does influence my teaching and the artists I choose to present to my students.

- Has these times affected the creativity in photography work? Has it motivated you in a new and different direction or it is just business as usual?

AS-My Stranded series is influenced by the current state of our country, so in that sense yes. But, I never let the market dictate my output.

RNSM- Some of your students in a near future will be hitting the streets for the real world. What is the best advise you can provide to them?

AS-The best advice I can give them is to focus on their work. Beyond that it is important to find a community of artists you like and build a network of support. Also, follow the lead of young photographers like Grant Willing and Alana Celii with Fjord and Shane Lavalette with Lay Flat and create your own opportunities.

RNSM- Your book Domesticated is a great one...Was it hard to conceive?

-I didnʼt start the series with the intent to create a book. When I won the Critical Mass prize, the opportunity presented itself and I jumped. It took over a year to edit, sequence, and design the book.

RNSM- Any more books coming up?

AS-I have just finished my Stranded project and have begun the daunting process of editing for a book. I have over 100 images that I consider worthy of publication, but I would like to edit it down to a solid 70 before I start sequencing. I am going to build an editing wall in my home where I can live with all of the images in smaller sizes and move them around at my leisure. I hope to have a maquette ready to take to publishers by the end of 2009.

RNSM- Your Halloween in Harlem series are one of my favorite ones...What made you start them and why in Harlem? Are the series still in progress?

AS-Most of the images for that series were shot in East Harlem. Until the 2nd Avenue subway comes online in 2015, it will remain the only area of Manhattan that still is affordable for working families. I lived there for two and a half years after I moved to New York with my husband. It is such a rich and vibrant part of the city and on Halloween the area is alive with activity.

While I was living there I was struck by the similarities and differences between Halloween in Harlem and my experiences as a child. There are lots of children in costumes bouncing around the neighborhood, but instead of going door to door they go from check-cashing places to liquor stores. I really wanted to capture this experience and this time because I think things will be radically different once the new subway is done and that part of Manhattan becomes much more attractive to developers.

I will probably keep going back to shoot for a few more years.

RNSM- Do you think the Art blog community can help in some way to pull together and help endure this current economic climate? How? Why?

AS-I think there is value in blog commiseration, but more importantly it is valuable to share innovations that might transform the industry. Anytime there is a shakeup like this, people tend to respond in two ways. There are those that do everything they can to return to the previous normal and there are those that try to create a new normal. I think there is worth in both pursuits and the art blog community will be a good resource to share strategies that return us to some kind of normalcy.

RNSM- What are you currently working on?

AS-Right now I am all about Stranded and getting that ready for a book. This spring I am going to start on a new large-format project that should be radically different than my previous work. I want to finish that by the end of the year. Also, I am going to start the grant process to secure funding for the companion series to Domesticated.

RNSM- You seem to travel frequently...does that influence your work?

AS-I am a traveling machine. Of late, I have been asked to be a visiting artist at a number of schools across the country. It is a lot of fun, but it keeps me on the road and away from my husband a little too often.

I work in projects, so I tend not to shoot as I travel unless I am traveling specifically for a project.

RNSM- Any final thoughts?

AS-Whatʼs the deal with talking babies in commercials? That crap must end now.

RNSM-Thank you Amy!

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