I keep on having random conversations with all sorts of people about various aspects of photography. This is one I had about self-promotion.
N: I keep on getting all these promotional emails in my inbox. What a pain in the arse.
Me: Who are they from?
N: They're from everybody - galleries, magazines, bloggers, you, everybody. But the ones that really set me off are from somebody I commissioned to do a portrait a few years ago. He sends me all these newsletters and updates about how well he's doing and he's got this show here and that show there and he's in this magazine and sold another thing somewhere else, but why's he telling me? I don't care. I took a chance commissioning his work and it's a chance I shouldn't have taken because now I have to look at his work every other week and I don't even commission anything anymore.
Me: But you don't look at his work. You just delete it.
N: I have to look at his work even when I delete his message because his pictures pop into my head, his face pops into my head. He's arrogant and I dislike his work and his artist's statement saying how his art is all about his family and his addictions when it's not, when that is just something he says because that is what your are supposed to say. It's fundamentally dishonest.
Me: Isn't that what he has to do to get noticed and why are you taking it personally? Once, he could just bring in his portfolio and clippings and you could tell him to go away or, if you got on with him, you could commission him to do something, but now you can't - but that's your fault for being so distant and unattainable.
N: I don't think so. There are hordes of these people like him out there, you photo people, and if I gave every one even a single minute of my time I would be stuck in a vortex of characterless girls and liminal places or whatever the current thing is. But I don't want to know every last detail of his unsustainable career. It's such bullshit; email bulletins, newsletters, facebook updates, blog postings asking me to like his page. How does he put this stuff out, how can he have any dignity or pride in what he does when he comes up with this. I make art and I don't do this stuff, I don't tell everyone how great I am, how fabulously I'm doing, how the sun shines out of my arse. I don't do it because 1. It isn't true and 2. I don't want to do it.
Me: Perhaps that's why you're so unsuccessful. Maybe your work should be about your family and your addictions and maybe you should be reaching out to others and sharing what you've been through on facebook or twitter or a blog.
N: Reaching out, sharing! Sharing is personal, it's not something you do on a computer, it's not sending somebody a message or a piece of quasi-personal information that promotes you as some kind of brand. The whole process just debases relationships, language and the art it is supposed to promote. You do it as well. You're just as bad with your blogs and your facebooks.
Me. You hate him so much but you're friends with him on Facebook. Why don't you just unfriend him?
N: But that would just be weird.And then I wouldn't have any friends on Facebook - I'd just have my brother in Queensland. And then all I'd know about is how wasted he got last night and how hot and sunny it is in Queensland, except when it's raining of course.
Me: So now you're telling me you like getting all those emails and updates and self-worship things.
N: Not at all. I'm telling you isn't there any other way, and if there isn't any other way, then what really is the point of it all because it takes something that I used to love and makes it counter-productive, destructive and crass.
Me: But you're still friends with him on Facebook!
For a more commercial (and confused) take on the same subject, read this creative's concerns on A Photo-Editor.