Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Current State of the ART Market Series # 5 with Photographer/Writer and Fellow Art Blogger- WILL STEACY

Photographer/Writer and Fellow Art Blogger- WILL STEACY

Photo- Will Steacy-Liz, Philadelphia, 2007, from the series All My Life I Have Had The Same Dream

Photo by Will Steacy- Kimball, Chicago, 2008, from the series Down These Mean Streets

This is installment #5 of The Current State of the ART Market Series.It is the turn for Will Steacy, Photographer/Writer and Fellow Art Blogger . ARTmostfierce wanted to show a side of Will that most people don't know. I consider Will a friend and he often, gets stereotyped as a bad boy of the art world. Besides being a talented photographer, the Will I know, is way far from any of those misconceptions. Let's see what Will really has on his mind!

Ruben Natal San Miguel-What gets Will going these days?

Will Steacy-Jumping out of bed everyday with the intention of creating, to learn and discover something new. Lately, I have become fascinated with New York City telephone booths. No one really uses public pay phones anymore since everyone has a cell phone and these booths have become, one of the last semi private places in the city. The window in my old apartment used to look out onto not 1 but 2 phone booths and the angle from my window allowed me to see over people’s shoulders and what they were doing. At all times during the day, I would watch people go into these booths and shoot up, smoke up, do a bump, sell drugs, get a blow job or simply take a piss. It will be 2 in the afternoon and people just walk by these booths completely oblivious to what is happening inside. It’s crazy! I love it!

RNSM-As an emerging photographer/writer/artist in NYC , what are your thoughts about the current state of the ART market?

WS-I think it is a unique and interesting time for younger artists right now. I think there are going to be more opportunities for young artists to show their work in various venues as people are turning away from larger price tags and looking at art that is more affordable by young up and comers, people trying to invest in that Randy Moss 21st draft pick. I think we will start to see more and more group shows, which are an “emerging artist’s” best friend, as galleries might be hesitant to invest in one body of work. But there is a flip side to this as well. Emerging artists will always be fighting that uphill battle to pay rent, student loans, travel expenses, film, processing, printing, framing, self promotion, credit card bills, etc, etc, blah, blah…aka the realities of being a young artist. And in a slow economy finding the sources to fund these things may be a more difficult than usual, but maybe not, maybe it’s just always hard. And there seem to be more and more young hungry photographers these days all fighting to get their work out, so the competition is tough. And while every emerging artist jumps at the opportunity to show their work, I think it is important in these times to take a step back and put things in perspective. Are they ready, is the body of work ready to be seen, can they afford it, what are the risks involved? As the focus may turn to the plentiful pond of emerging artists, how long will this trend last, will it backfire for an artist whose work is not developed and still maturing and they are never heard from again, or will it be the key that unlocked the door to a successful career?

RNSM- Do you think that this is a good time to develop more visibility and generate a stronger collectors base vs. lets say, have more sales of your work and develop new body of work?

WS-Well, my perspective is skewed here. My main focus is always to be working and making photographs. And whatever comes out of that work will happen later. There are many things that go into making a body of work and many things that go into having that body of work seen, recognized and ideally purchased at some point down the line by collectors. I think it is a juggling act between making work, funding the work, promoting it, and supporting yourself. At first it can be difficult and confusing, but eventually you get used to it and then you start throwing more and more into that juggling act to keep things interesting and to be constantly growing and evolving. But I think the most important thing is the work.

RNSM- You had recently a pretty good limited edition sale that in my opinion was the inspiration of and motivation of other artists because, it was pretty successful ...Would you like to share some information about it? What was the main reason ? Who guided you? Why you think it was so successful? You know everybody stills talks about and I think it set a precedent for others.

WS-Last October, I had a print sale through my blog in a last minute effort to raise money to support the costs of moving. My landlord had raised my rent a ridiculous amount, which was out of my price range, and I needed money to help cover the costs associated with moving. So, a certain friend/collector (you!) recommended having a print sale, which thanks to many contributing factors including luck and good timing, turned out to be a success. I think my timing was great, I announced the sale on my blog just days before all of the economic turmoil and bailout talks began. I also relied completely on the power of the blog/Internet and word of mouth. I asked all of my blogger friends to help spread the word and let people know about my sale, which was for a good cause, another factor that helped. Without all of the support of my friends, I know the sale would not have been as successful as it was. I did something similar to this a couple of years ago to fund my work in New Orleans. I wrote a letter to friends and acquaintances asking to help support the work I was doing and in exchange for a donation I was offering prints at half price. Many people choose to donate and then choose a print from the work I was making, this also was a success and supported a year’s worth of work. In these circumstances I think everyone wins, the artist is able to either continue making work or simply get themselves out of a tight situation and the collectors/buyers/supporters come away with a piece of art at a very affordable price. I think timing is key and I think there is a level of professionalism that must go along with it, at the end of day people are giving you money and it is important to respect that, the details matter, especially if you want people to come back.

RNSM-Does your writing influence your photography work? If so, Why?

WS-Writing and photography are two mediums that over the years have become one for me. While most may be familiar with my images, it is the words that got me there. Both words and images are an integral part of my process. During the course of a project I fill tons of notebooks with ideas, plans, notes, experiences, dreams, etc and I continue to fill these notebooks as I make photographs. I am writing as I am shooting and it is my writing that I return to between trips/shoots. The words allow the pictures to happen, they are the bridge to the other side.

RNSM-Are you interviewing somebody now?

WS-I am working on several things at the moment. My next piece examines the life of a camera and the story of the photographs that have been made with it. From a war photographer who ended up committing suicide because she was so plagued by what she saw and photographed to the young aspiring photographer who recently received this camera as a Christmas gift. Some of my other pieces are pretty abstract and test the boundaries. Lately I have been thinking about holding on to them and putting them all together in one place. The Internet and the blogs these days seem to be only scratching the surface of their potential and possibilities. There are great opportunities to rethink and redefine media as we know it, from the basic to the large and grand. We’ll see what happens.

RNSM- Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What would you like to be doing then?

WS- I hope to be chasing my dreams and pursuing whatever it is I’m interested in. I always have planned on becoming a barber and opening up my own barber shop when I’m old and it’s one of those barber shops that is never really busy, or there is just no rush, even if you are waiting, you are relaxed, reading the paper or having a cigar or flipping through a Playboy. I have always loved to get my hair cut and found it to be such a relaxing experience. And all my old buddies hang out there and we argue and remember the good old times. And it’s not one of those stupid stylish places, I really am not that good a barber, I only give three kinds of haircuts, no matter what you ask for you are either going to get a buzz, short on the sides and long on top, or just a little off the top. Who knows where I will be in 5 years, shit, I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 days.

RNSM- As part of the bohemian downtown set is your work and life a pure reflection of it or just a setting for inspiration?

WS-I’ve lived in a city all my life. There is a certain energy and feeling in the air in the streets, bars, restaurants, parties, coffee shops, gallery openings, clothing shops, alleyways, rooftops, etc, that doesn’t exist anyway where else. While perhaps a lot of it is just people fronting and trying too hard to look cool, there is something refreshing about this energy and spirit, and that’s what keeps me here. And there are certainly times when things get to me (usually March and the last of the cold weather) and I need to get away. But no matter how long I’m gone or how often I talk about moving to another city, I always am secretly excited to come home and never have the balls to leave here for good. I never shoot where I live, it’s too familiar, a big part of when I shoot is discovery and the excitement of the unfamiliar.

RNSM- They say sometimes your work can take over or mirror your personal life is that the case with you ? Or you are just walking a fine line through it?

WS-Ahhh, the gift and curse of being an artist. I give myself to my work, it is what I am here on this Earth to do and the only way I know how to do it is to dive in head first. And while this is the greatest feeling in the world and nothing makes me happier and feel more alive than to be creating, out exploring the world, there are other things in life than my work that I regret having not paid enough attention to. I have lost women I loved, I have been barely able to pay my rent some months, I disappear from friends for weeks/months, blah, blah, because I have allowed this spirit inside me to take over. I have always believed that somehow it is all the same thing, my life=my art=my love. But there also have been times when it wasn’t easy to let this happen either. While working in New Orleans over the course of a year, there were times when making a photograph became so painful that the only way I could do it was to sit in my car after a shot and cry. That was how I got through that year and was able to process it and move forward. And when I got back to New York after each trip, it always took a day or two, sometimes a week, to reemerge myself back into reality.

RNSM-How important do you think is for an artist to understand the business side of the art business and why?

WS-I think it is one of the most important things there is for an artist to understand, outside of his/her work. At the end of the day art, like anything else, and as much as we would like to think otherwise, is a business. Plain and simple. And I think for many artists, including myself, the business side of it is something completely new and something that doesn’t come natural. It took a while for me to accept that “my art” was a business too. I remember the first time I sold a picture through my gallery and I remember feeling wrong about it, like the two shouldn’t go together, but that quickly passed. And there are also many artists who have an amazing natural business sense and who totally get it. And those are great friends to have when you need advice!

RNSM-You have been doing some assignments and commercial work...Can you tell us how is that going and if it affects in some way your fine art work?

WS-Yes I have some steady commercial clients whom I shoot for on a regular basis and there of course are some days when I would much prefer to be working on my fine art projects, but I just remember that it could be a whole lot worse and that I am lucky to be able to make a living with my camera. Working with a client and basically turning an idea into a photograph has taught me a great deal. I love solving a visual puzzle and looking and thinking about things that I probably wouldn’t be interested in otherwise, it makes me a better photographer.

RNSM-Do you have any idea of how the ART market will change and how?

WS-I don’t know what will happen. I am a rookie, I haven’t even been in the game long enough to fully understand the magnitude and intricacies of whatever changes will occur. Looking at the art world in the past 50 years there have been many changes and I think that the one thing we can always count on is that the art world is constantly evolving and as trends/ideas/tools develop and change over the years so does the art market. As conceptual art gave way to the abstract painters in the 80s, there was a craving for the object, something people could hang on walls, and juxtaposed with some thick collector wallets guys like Schnabel, Fischl, Salle, Halley made a fortune. Again timing. But as we enter a digital age in a recession I am curious and excited to see what direction artists will go and how the art market will respond.

RNSM-Can you tell us what are you are working on now?

WS-I am working on the first chapter of a series of projects exploring the journey. I am in the middle of a project titled “Down These Mean Streets” in which I am traveling to American cities and walking from the airport to the city’s (cultural/economic) center at night. I am interested in the abandonment and neglect of our inner cities and how the effects of a post industrialist society have impacted or even shaped our ghettos. The walks have gone from being frightening and at times uncomfortable to thrilling and in the process of testing my own limits and fears, I have learned a great deal about myself. I hope that in this body of work my viewer will also come away with a sense of empathy. While I do not offer any solutions to the problems of our cities, perhaps there are none, a lack of empathy and fear have lead us to where we are now and so if we can come away from these images with a sense of compassion this project will be a success.

RNSM- Will, thank you for talking to us and lets know more about you!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for insightful interview, Ruben. Great job. I admire Will's candor and commitment to his art. I wish him the best of luck.

ruben said...

Thank you Cesar!
More to come so,stay tuned!