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Saturday, 22 November 2014


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Might be a little jealousy at work, because he did something that others don't do.

There may be a residual notion in the ether that artists are supposed to starve for their art. That's so quaint, isn't it? As if the art is more noble if the artist can't eat or get his teeth fixed. You can see where BUYERS and maybe gallery owners might like to perpetuate this paradigm, since it helps to keep prices low. I bet they'd hate it if it affected re-sales the same way though.

What's more odd to me is why anyone cares what others do. It will either work for him or it won't, either way I don't see how it affects me. Maybe people are worried that it might work out very well and they'll curse themselves for not doing similar themselves.

The thing is, it's all hard. Making new art is hard, and marketing/selling art is hard. But not being able to sell is almost a badge of honour in some circles. If the stuff sells, then maybe it means that it's too accessible, lord knows you don't want that, no sirree. My wife wishes she knew how to sell her paintings better, me too.

In some fields there is no such thing as too little marketing. Wrong marketing yes, but the best marketing is aligned with your goals. I don't have the interest or resources to become "famous" but I do want to be known locally as a "photographer". I market myself accordingly.

I couldn't agree more. If you don't promote yourself, who is going to do it?
(Admittedly I have not read the article so I don't know how he goes about it.)

There is a great distaste in most of this planet cultures about putting yourself forward. Some people feel that it includes putting others down. I think if you feel that, it is probably due to something weakness in your own ego. Maybe others have beaten you about to head for being proud of yourself when you were little, so you'll be damned if you'll allow others the same now.

It's the starving artist ideal. The artist, a tragic hero, is supposed to be in it for the art, not the money. It's acceptable for other people to make money from the art, after the artist has died. There are people who hate Picasso, who think he "sold out", because he financially did well.

Interesting that this should come along now. I've just been solicited by a gallery owned by someone I met at a photography gathering who wants to represent my work. Wow! How's that for a complement. So now I'm faced with a problem. I've never had any desire to "make money" at photography ... though I have no problem with those who do. For the last 50 years photography has been something I do for the sheer pleasure of it. How will having to produce wallable art to maintain a gallery relationship affect what and how I shoot? If I decide to pursue the relationship I either have to take it seriously and "do the work", both behind the camera and promotionally to make it worth both our time, or opt for my "peace and quiet" lifestyle. I'm not against self promotion. Its necessary but been there done that; its just not something I enjoy doing. The gallery also suggested I should be teaching - been there done that too. Sooo .... how much do I care about being known and recognized? Is it worth my "peace and quiet"? And if it is, I'd damned well better be prepare to too my horn and live with the kind of Blowback Mike got.

Decisions, decisions ....

For me the problem is that his promotion isn't backed up by the work shown. Sorry.

My sentiments exactly. How many of those who criticized his efforts have the will to undertake the effort he has put into this. "What else" is exactly the question. It seems to me that marketing has been a part of many a successful artist's experience. It's the difference between the starving artist and those with a little meat on their bones. More power to him.

Self-promotion is inherently disreputable; it puts you in the same category with snake-oil salesmen. You may have noticed that marketing and advertising are not very well thought of in general in the USA?

Wishing and dreaming is way more easy than actually trying. Anyone who attempts to rise above is seen as a threat and uncool. It's always been the same, kids at school who were good students have always been laughed at and bullied. Sad but true.
Sour grapes.

I guess his self promotional efforts wer not entirely successful. Who's Aaron Greenman?

Mike, I agree 100%. A persons lifestyle and choice of vocation needs to be sustainable.

From Ursula K. Le Guin's speech ...

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.

A market commodity pays the bills. Art, unless promoted, is something that hangs on a wall. The artist's dining room wall.

Mike, I had objections to Aaron, but they were not, "he shouldn't be promoting himself." Some sort of promotion is necessary to success for pretty much everybody.

My objections were, first, in the realm of unclear thinking: "an approach to the world that is without preconceptions." Nonsense. We all have our sociocultural lenses through which we view the world. The great thing is to be aware of them as much as you can and to use them. I think of Peter Turnley as someone who is aware of the way he sees the world and uses that to make wonderful images.

Secondly, I found the trailer more than a bit overwrought. I enjoyed it much more once I killed the audio and just looked at the images. I'd have liked more time to see most of them and they weren't all gems, but that could be said of anyone.

In short, I think there is a place for clear thinking and taste in promotion. I'm going to pick on Peter Turnley again as someone who promotes himself, but in a way that I very much appreciate. I love the images and stories he shares on twitter. They leave me feeling that I'd like to share a meal with Peter and see more of his work ... a very different feeling than Aaron's trailer elicits.

Thank you for telling us about Aaron. I look forward to following his future photographic work.


If I had a message to convey to Aaron, it would go something like this: GO, AARON!

Interesting. I resisted injecting my two cents previously because I didn't feel like "going negative" myself, particularly (as you well point out) on a fellow photographer that is just trying to get his 15 minutes through his own hard work and initiative. That said, like many of the previous commenters, I too find his overall presentation somewhat bordering on self aggrandizement (there, I said it). And that can rub people the wrong way, especially when the work, as good as much of it is, doesn't quite rise to the level(s) that he himself seems to describe... which leads to one of the main articles of contention- much of his praise seems self generated. And if you're gonna put yourself out there in that manner, well then, one should really have something unique to sell, or something that really (Really!) hits home.

Back in the early seventies, Les Krims supposedly helped promote himself by sending a "review" to a local paper under a pseudonym demanding that someone, anyone should close down his exhibit at once in the name of common decency. It got the effect he wanted- a deluge of publicity for his highly unique and imaginative photography.

Today, Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York has attained world wide status, and no doubt he has been the primary engine in that super massive build up. The photography is mediocre at best, but his project is not about photography- it's simply the medium to popularize his overall feel good message (even when the stories are sad). And for better or worse, people have latched on to it, and then some! It may not be "the right" message that people need to hear right now- but it's most definitely the one they want to hear!

I think what ACG's doing would be perfectly legit if he was pushing himself on the commercial front. It's a tried and true formula. Using it in the "fine arts" niche is a whole 'nother bag of worms, particularly in a field with competing egos too numerous to count and too large to measure. Can't blame a guy for trying, but IMO, the shades don't match the rug.


I guess he needs to crank it up?

Mike - the BS meter is pegged on this guy.

You have your own "brand" with "Random Excellence," which to me indicates - "pay attention - really good stuff ahead!" I trust your taste in photography implicitly.

But, I think that there is a world of difference in the quality and consistency of this gentleman's work and your recent "Random Excellence" offerings. There's also a difference between self-promotion and over-the-top self-aggrandizing. Like many of the other commentators, I don't see that this particular photographer has much to say, beyond hyperbolically promoting his own image and brand. I didn't get any real sense of connection with his subjects or, really, much in the way of creativity or originality. It seems like the purpose of his photography is mainly to have reams and reams of images with which to fill his "galleries."

The "trailer" seemed very phony to me. The smirking self portrait was the icing on the cake.

I appreciate that you may be trying to help out a struggling, non commercial photographer. I think that's noble. But I would suspect that your readership would be more receptive if you were to label such posts as "emerging talent" or such rather than with the "excellence" tag.

Amen. And can you name any other established photographers who routinely aren't charging anything for their work?

Yes. You are exactly right. More power to the guy. I wish him great success.

I agree with you Mike. The world of photography has changed so much in the last few years and it is now very difficult to see any return whether it be financial or just recognition. The fact is that you have promote yourself because nobody is going to do it for you. I watched the clip and then went to the website for ACG and although the photography is n't what I personally like I think he's doing a good job in trying to leverage off of social media.

It is a new paradigm now and we're seeing people do things very differently people like Joey L, Lara Jade, Benjamin Von Wong, Eric Kim are all examples of photographers who have taken a new approach to promoting themselves and their photography. Self promotion via social media, meetups, working on collaborative projects that won't necessarily see cash but generate publicity, even selling photoshop actions, are all ways of building a following and hopefully an income.

He could make the rounds of some galleries or magazines to see if he could get some support from curators and editors. Or he could collaborate with a filmmaker to do a short film about the genre, featuring his photographs (and maybe those of others). In other words, he could get some third-party corroboration that his work is good, instead of just saying so himself.

One of the reasons this puts me (and I’m sure others) off is because it seems too close to the huge crop of self-aggrandizing shysters that have blossomed in the past decade or so, trying to sell us SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or “Social Networking” services. I don’t know what it’s like in Waukesha, but where I live the streets are crawling with those people, and 95% of them are full of crap and have no idea what they’re talking about.

It harkens back to the early days of blogging, when the blogosphere was awash with “experts” who would tell us (for a fee) how to “build our brand” or worse, “be a brand,” even before blogging was seen as a commercial activity.

It’s no coincidence that part of what makes the Vivian Maier mythology so popular and immediately attractive is the fact that she was the complete opposite of this; she said nothing of her own work, and made no attempt to promote herself. Clearly, she’s at one extreme of a continuum, but Greenman seems to be at the other extreme (at least based on that short clip).

I’m not suggesting he, or anyone with his ambitions just sit around waiting to be discovered. But as I inferred at the beginning of this comment, working to get other people to recognize your work is very different from simply bragging about it. But that’s not the way people do things these days I suppose, with the Internet and self-publishing platforms so helpfully encouraging instant gratification. No doubt a lot of Greenman’s admirers will watch the film (probably scrubbing forward through the boring parts), hit the appropriate “Like” buttons, and move on to something else before the credits even roll.

But if he wants a reputation that sticks and isn’t just another flash in the pan, then maybe he should do it the old fashioned way and get someone else to acknowledge his work first.


The problem with others promoting themselves is a tricky thing.

On one hand, and especially in the photography world, there is an element of jealousy — "Who is he to think he is so good?" In honest moments, many photographers and wannabe photographers will admit to these feelings and some will talk about the efforts they make to not get sucked into that vortex.

There is also the old "artistic purity" business. Frankly, artistic integrity (or purity) is a fine thing, but does that really mean that an artist should not take steps that increase the chances that he or she can actually make a living from the art? Don't we actually want to see such people be able to devote themselves completely to their photography?

If I am reading your post correctly, the guy has a family and then decides he wants to become a HCB type photographer and make enough income to support his family? Will there be a Kickstarter campaign up ahead to feed his children?

I am guessing since a post about him and his work has not contributed good attention, now this community of readers is asked to give this guy (and lets bring others into the mix as well) some slack? Well his campaign is trite at this stage and probably the reason for the negative feedback.

What else are they supposed to do?
Get a REAL job (weddings, etc.), stash some cash and learn how to market better. That has never been beneath the successful.

Right on Mike
Waiting for the world to come to you is a sure path to bankruptcy and starvation. The life of a starving artist is highly overrated.

The responses from the Commentariat (perfect word) do not surprise me at all. Such discussions are also beginning to sadden me a bit.

I’ve had some success at doing what I wanted photographically over the last several years, and while most folks have been appreciative or, at least, tolerant; some have just been jerks for no reason other than jealousy.

Years ago my awakening took place in a museum looking at “Modern” art. I said what so many people say: “I could have done that!” My wife, a painter, wheeled on me and said - quite pointedly - “Yes, but you didn’t!” It truly was a moment of Epiphany.

I recently had a small exhibition in conjunction with a music festival. The festival director, who had commissioned the work, was extremely happy. I received many very nice comments. Except, of course, from the the one musician there who also fancied himself a photographer. On two separate occasions, with me within 5 feet of the conversation, (“I’m right here …”) he spouts off about how he could have done the work, but …

He possibly could have (I don’t know), but he didn’t!

Just a few days ago, on one of the photography chat forums, someone listed the names of the photographers in Group f.64, but did not identify them as that group and just asked who had heard of them. Several, who got the reference, made clever remarks without giving away the secret, but some of the others were heartless in their criticism after doing some Googling of the names they did not recognize. “Amateurish” “Deserves to be forgotten.”

Seriously? WTF are you?

I guess it’s just the nature of things, magnified by the internet, but many photographers cannot say anything good about other photographers, especially if they think they could have also done the same work.

Yes, you could have done this project someone else just did, but you didn’t.

Yes, you could make a video, or a book like that, but you didn’t.

Yes, you could raise money through crowd-funding (well maybe - another discussion) and do what ever …

… but you still haven’t!

There is Art and there is commercial. And the two shall never meet. Art is pure and decent, even when the subject matter isn't. Commercial is somehow dirty because it aims to make money. This is true not only in photography but in movies and other forms of 'art' as well, including books and magazines.
The reality today is that everybody is a photographer and as a result the value of a photograph has dropped close to zero. There is still some advertising photography, though their budgets have been cut and they use free or $1 stock photographs as much as they can. And there is wedding photography. Other than that it is next to impossible to make a living from photography today. Street photography is the worst. Even big name 'street photographers' have to make large part of their living from teaching workshops. And these are people like Mary Ellen Mark, and many other similar caliber photographers.
Maybe the best career advice to a young, would-be photographer is: Don't. Instead, get a job that allows you to be a photographer on the side. What irks me are people who choose a difficult or nonexistent profession and then complain how difficult it is to make money from it. Unfortunately there are not that many jobs for professional photographers anymore, just like there are not many for stage coach drivers or cowboys either. They are tough outdoor jobs and demand is much less than it used to be.

Is this the same guy?


Reminds me of the recent firestorm over U2 with the ITunes promotion. Most people complain that the huge corporations manhandle artists. Artists complain that their music gets stolen/downloaded for free. Some consumers feel like music should be free!

This was a win, win, win. Apple, one of the biggest and most successful companies on the planet, forked over $100,000,000 for the ability to exclusively give the album away for 30 days. U2 never would have made that in sales. And after 30 days, they can sell it as always. Consumers got access to own the album for no charge. The artist benefited, Apple benefited and the consumer benefited. And everyone complained.

I went and reread the comments of your original ACG post. For the most part, the criticism is directed at the tone of his self-promotion, not the self-promotion itself.

More than a few also observed that his work wasn't up to snuff, or more accurately, it needed tighter editing. If you're going to call yourself "brilliant", every single image should back up that claim.

I doubt any of us begrudge someone who's doing the necessary and difficult job of getting noticed, but ACG's presentation, which included work that was merely competent, managed to put off a majority of your (admittedly small) sample group of commenters. That suggests a need to rethink his marketing campaign, not for him to scrap it altogether.

I think it's entirely possible to promote oneself without generating the same reactions. I visit plenty of other photographers websites - some amateurs, some pros. Jay Maisel asks $4000+ for his prints and $5000 for a weeklong workshop and I come away wishing I had that kind of disposable income. Trey Ratcliff takes the Aaron Greenman approach, with his "Stuck in Customs" brand and it's very obvious that he's trying to make money off his site, but I don't come away with the same negative reaction I get off Aaron's site. So it's not that he's marketing; it's that his specific marketing turns me (and, apparently, others) off. Then again, if it works for him, my opinion is irrelevant. I hope it does.

I'm part owner of a non-photo trade magazine that we started 15 years ago. It took about ten years to turn a profit but we had nothing like the resources that were gifted to the University. Although we have a relatively large circulation our main income is from advertising and that is a tough sell. I can imagine the University chaps would not deign to dirty their hands in such 'squalid' commercial activities but that's the number 1 priority for survival. Behind that one must retain an editorial integrity ideally unrelated to the need for commercial success but it's more complicated.
I now have an idea for another magazine in a closely related field and I feel sure, based on some basic research that there is a market. The problem though is that the demand for paper magazines is fading fast or, so it seems. Even if it weren't we would not consider an expenditure anything like the University's in order to get going. The alternative is a web site but a) it does not appear to be a good basis for the long narratives we have in mind and which would cost time, research and involve costs to produce them and b) we feel fairly certain that we could not easily find sufficient advertising to cover our costs. So, if the Uni still has $5M left we could take just a fraction of that to start our commercial trade magazine that could not be considered to be art orientated and where we would be strongly focussed on making a profit.
Excuse me, this was possibly totally irrelevant but your story of these guys in their privileged detachment from reality was a little frustrating.

"There may be a residual notion in the ether that artists are supposed to starve for their art."

I never understood this either. I know why the starving starts, especially at the beginning, when no one is buying your work, but why shoot yourself in the foot? I really don't see the problem with commercial success.

What else? Take a job as a nanny and have your work promoted after your death.

I'd hazard a guess that all serious artists make their work because they are compelled to do so and always find a way to do it. For most making a living entirely from their work is an unlikely pipe-dream.

Alternative strategy? Non promotion in hope of posthumous fame? Vivian Maier anyone? (May I be the first to suggest the conspiracy theory that Vivian isn't dead but living in luxury just down the road from Elvis in a gated community in Mexico.)

Everyone responding to this post (or the previous one) is promoting something. It's their point of view. It's ironic to me that so many would self-promote their feeling that Greenbaum's self-promotion is somehow wrong.

It would not surprise, or offend, me to discover Homer, if he really existed, exercised some ancient marketing strategy...... And if he did, he had to be cautious about doing it in a way not to offend the Art class of Hellenic society.

There is nothing ever wrong with art. It is his way of sharing what he has to say. And if it works for him, it is a big gain for the photographic community, because it means there is a chance it will also work for you and me. What can possibly be wrong with that? And if you don't like it, just move on. It's a very noisy market place, as previously said.

What Tim Allen said. I don't think any of us objects to artists wanting to make profits. It's just a matter of do they have to be so pompous about it? Especially when the work is so generic. But the whole thing did seem aimed at an audience unfamiliar with photography as art, so that's probably why it rankled with us.

With regard to fame I think it's interesting to go back to the post that sent TOP viral


The older I get the more I think that ........

There is nothing ennobling about a lack of resources and a lack of recognition. For many of us, self-promotion is hard. I applaud anyone who has the gumption and who has figured out a workable plan to sell their work. There are many blockades to surmount. One of the most difficult is the sure knowledge that the "I could do better than that", and the "What makes him/her so special" crowd will make an appearance. Usually at a time of maximum stress while trying to get the better of our inner critic and mountain of doubts. If your work is so much better than the struggling artist who is out there trying to make it all work, show us what you got. I know, I know, you're not quite ready and money is so...what? Money buys supplies - the bane of the struggling artist since art began.

I love this quote pulled from an earlier post by David Brown.
"Years ago my awakening took place in a museum looking at “Modern” art. I said what so many people say: “I could have done that!” My wife, a painter, wheeled on me and said - quite pointedly - “Yes, but you didn’t!” It truly was a moment of Epiphany."

Go, man, go. It is brilliant that you are out there. Much success to you.

...which is why I'm a happy, anonymous amateur, kind of like Vivian Meyer.

with best regards,


Whenever I dared do something creative, I got ostracised immediately. "Who do you think you are, how dare you, step back in line NOW". There was not the smallest grain of support or encouragement, on the contrary. People got angry and upset. I gave up, I'll never know what I would (or would not) have achieved, standing glued on the sidelines of any creative or artistic endeavour.

I feel the sting when I see people daring to do what I didn't: step out of the line. Jump. Just do it. The bitter taste of art being discussed that comes close to something I had in mind. It's tempting to be a voice in the crowd, yell, and disappear. Who does he think he is, Cartier-Bresson?

Too late for me, I won't be an artist anymore. I feel the frustration. But I decided to NEVER be the one hollering at people who try. At least I can do what would have helped me back then: whenever given the opportunity, offer encouragement and support.

Never heard of Aaron Greenman before, and his work is not my cup of tea. The work of many successful artists isn't my cup of tea, so that's not relevant anyway. I hope he can make it work. If he can make a living of what he loves doing, wow - that's awesome.

World would be a much better place if more people did what they love, and less disgruntled folks who, nose on the grindstone, hold grudges.


"Is this the same guy?


Well spotted Darlene - it clearly is the same guy. I suppose that this explains how he can sell his prints for $50 and has such a globetrotting portfolio. It is funny to see that the jobs/locations on his CV match the dates on the photos on the site.

Bless him.

Darlene- Unless he has a European executive doppelganger, we could certainly then eliminate the starving artist thread. Although, he may well still become one should he give up the day job.

Actually, there's an extensive list of photographers having successful professional careers before turning pro/artist- from Salgado on down... But (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) this would probably mark the first time a photographer has a film devoted to his greatness before having actually been acknowledged for said accomplishment by anyone other than himself.

There is nothing wrong with self promotion so long as other people take up your cause as well, because that is what starts to validate the work, that other people see something in it, or even like it. But I don't really see anything from anybody else truly getting behind him, just things that have been submitted by Greenman to forums that need to fill space.

I can't help but think in this case his validation comes from a close relative saying something like 'oh you take lovely photo's, you should do something with them'. From a loving Mother or Wife that is all some people need to over compensate, although some self belief can't be a totally bad thing.

I think it's simple.
People don't want to feel that they are being sold something.

Nothing bad about it but I do think his approach is a bit too cheesy or hammy. Still all the best to him and to everyone trying to make a name and a living with a craft we all love.

I think it's better to wait for others to tell you you're an artist and that you produce art, rather than claim it's so yourself. Ideally, those that say so should have some critical credibility, not just your mum, your auntie Vera, and a few forum commenters saying "nice pics".

"This would probably mark the first time a photographer has a film devoted to his greatness before having actually been acknowledged for said accomplishment by anyone other than himself."

But probabily he is just putting the skills of his day job in his promotion as a photographer...
Btw for me it is not a problem if an artist is appreciated and paid Big Money for his work, on the contrary imho this would be the perfect world.

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