The Art of the Spiel

That title only slightly makes sense in relation to this post, but coming up with clever titles is hard, y’all. I’m sure you feel my pain.


If not, then feel this photo instead.

First of all, I wrote a really long post yesterday about an experience I had with a former blogger-friend of mine a few years ago, left it up for a few hours, then decided it wasn’t a good idea to say all that I did publicly about someone else even though most likely no one would have known who I was talking about anyway and took it down. So, if you read that post yesterday and are wondering where it went, then no, you have not lost your mind. I moved it back to draft status while I decide whether or not to let it stand (I am leaning towards not re-posting it). Moving on.


No, the dingo didn’t eat your baby. I did. 

I also had a ton of new photos in that post, so I will be working them in to this one now, and they most likely will not relate in any way to the topic at hand, but so be it. Everybody up to speed now? Then let’s get started.


So let’s discuss this instead: A while back, I posted about some more art opportunities that sort of came my way. I say sort of because, as was the case with art opportunities I’ve had in the past, these new ones also involved a bit of work on my part to make them happen, mostly because there was an assumption on behalf of the opportunity-provider that I know way more about all this photography stuff than I actually do. Because what I know is next to nothing. Which will become evident to you by the end of this post if it isn’t already.


Green-eyed monster, anyone?

I recall another opportunity that came to nothing a few years ago, wherein the art gallery owner ranted on and on to me about how photography wasn’t real art (not really surprising, then, that this opportunity never came to fruition). Her observation was that, basically, the technology of photography is such that one doesn’t have to have much real talent or skill to be a decent photographer, and that in the end photography is just a matter of ‘standing around long enough with a camera until something interesting happens and then clicking the shutter.’



Not gonna lie, but this description, rude as it was, was also shockingly close to describing my entire creative process, so I had to give her credit for that while still considering her pretty bitchy and losing interest in working with her immediately. But I digress.


Which leads me to a similar experience I had after being given the opportunity to submit a proposal to a local arts organization for possible inclusion in their programs, as I wrote about here and here. When I met with this woman initially, she was super-enthusiastic about my work and had lots of ideas of what I could do with it. I told her I’d mull her ideas over and see if I couldn’t work something up that fit into this organization’s structure, and over the weeks which ensued I tried my best to come up with something I liked.


I sent her a few versions of my ever-changing proposal, and occasionally asked questions, but I tried to learn from past experience and not ask for help from her too terribly much. But in the end, two things happened to put a stop to the whole thing before it ever got off the ground anyway.


First of all was the familiar fading of enthusiasm for my lack of experience. Sure enough, after the first round of questions or two, she started taking longer and longer to respond to my messages – which again, I tried not to make too constant – until eventually she stopped responding altogether. No surprise there.


But the other thing that happened was this: I finally realized, after well over a month of trying to take what I do and fit it into what this arts organization did and failing miserably, that I actually did not want to work with them at all. I had no enthusiasm for it, and was simply trying to make it happen because, once again, I’d fallen prey to the belief that if I’m good at something, I have to turn it into a thing – a career, a job, a moneymaker, a thing that I do instead of the other things I do to make money that other people see as less glamorous or fulfilling or interesting.


This happens to me quite often. I’m not talking about people who see my photos and, as a simple compliment, say that they think I could/should sell my work professionally and own my own photography business. I understand that when people say those things, they are being complimentary and nothing more, and I take it as such.


But there are other people who take it a bit further, by comparing the job I actually do work at and comparing it to my art, and finding my work lacking. Why are you an English tutor and not a photographer? they will say. Why are you wasting time being a teacher when you could be a full-time, paid artist?


I’ve noticed that the people who want to guide me away from teaching and into photography as a career are of two types, generally: people who absolutely HATE their own jobs, and people who absolutely LOVE what they do. The people who hate their jobs look at the way I have this totally separate thing that I do that looks so creative and fun and think, man, this woman must be crazy to do a boring old working-class job like teaching all day when she could go out and just take pictures instead; if I had a hobby like that I could easily turn into a full-time job, I’d do it in a heartbeat.


And the people who just LOVE their jobs look at my photography and can’t imagine how something like teaching could be as awesome as taking photos, and they feel sorry for me because they imagine I must only feel passion for the thing that looks super-fun and relaxing without understanding that the fact it isn’t my day job is a big part of WHY it’s super-fun and relaxing in the first place.


Found this dress at Goodwill for $25, and it was SO TINY I almost ripped it in half just trying to get it on. It did not survive the shoot.

Again – to any of you who have complimented my photos and said you thought I could have a career at it if I wanted one, please do not think I am talking about you. I am not. I’m talking about the people who see what I have chosen as a career as some sort of cop-out because I’m chicken or something, or lacking in motivation, or selling myself short because I lack confidence. Because that truly is not the case. Knowledge I may lack, but confidence I do not – or at least, no more than the next person.


It became painfully evident to me while I tried to force myself to work up a proposal for this arts organization that it simply didn’t speak to me at all, and that I was only trying to force myself into it because I was giving in to the voices that told me I was doing myself some sort of disservice by not pursuing it. The woman who originally came to me with the idea – and she was a very nice person, who no doubt was trying to do me a favor – even told me that day that I wasn’t “hanging out with my people” and that I really needed to get connected to this local art community of which she was a member. Which was – odd, to say the least.


See the wide neckline of the dress? It was NOT wide before I put it on. In fact, it came all the way up to my neck. I had to rip myself into it! Also, I couldn’t get the side zipper more than halfway up, but I think I concealed it well here.

I mean, really this woman didn’t know me at all, but the fact that I had artistic talent meant she somehow knew with whom I should have been hanging out. Interestingly enough, one of her biggest contacts she felt I should definitely be getting to know was the owner of the other art gallery, the one who insulted photography all the while knowing she was talking to a photographer. I disliked that woman immediately and immensely, yet because she was into Art-with-a-capital-A of course we should be hanging out and getting along.

Sorry, but I just HAD to include this

When I wrote poetry back in the 90’s, I often found myself at odds with what I was doing. I loved to read poetry, but I never cared much for reading it aloud, or hearing others read it. I wanted to hear it in my own head, and I really needed to see the words because the visuals were important to me (line breaks, etc.). But being a “poet” meant being a part of the poetry community – and while workshops always floated my boat because I loved picking poems apart and getting feedback about my own – listening to people at poetry readings or hanging out in coffee shops talking about how important poetry was always a bit boring to me.


To love reading and writing poetry is one thing – but in my opinion, to feel that poetry is essential to life and that it held within it all of the secrets of the world was just too much. It was fine if someone else felt that way, but I didn’t, so eventually, my connections to the poetry community faded and dissolved (for this and other reasons not mentioned because they have nothing to do with the subject), and after a stint in the 00’s writing poetry online with a fair amount of success, I discovered photography, and that became my much-preferred creative endeavor.


OK, I’m rambling here, so what is the point of all this? My point is this: number one, I am not only a good photographer, but I am also actually a very good teacher, and i very much enjoy tutoring. I am not only fine with it being my job, but I have actively chosen to make it so, and I continue to stick by that choice. It is rewarding and worthwhile and I am quite good at it. So, there’s that. And number two: just because I am good at photography does not mean it has to become my job or else I’ve wasted my talents. My art is my passion, but it’s mine, and no one owns it but me. It has nothing to do with how I pay my bills, and that is just the way I like it. When I shoot, I do exactly what I want, when I want, and how I want to do it. There are no demands – not on my time, or my level of effort, or my results. And often times, my results just suck, and that’s okay (good Lord, if I knew I had to get good results out of a shoot, it would be the end of me). The more people try to put my art into boxes that make them comfortable, the more I learn about where my own boundaries are around it. I don’t even feel much like I’ll ever want to take photos of other people at this point – for whatever reason,  I like using myself as my model, and so be it.


And one more thing – I am just not a ‘joiner.’ I’ve found this in the current political climate, too. As I think I’ve made very clear, I did not vote for our current president. And after the election, I was as motivated as anyone to get more politically involved. However, what I’ve found is loads of groups that, while they do good work organizing and focusing on very valuable issues, also have a huge social component I just don’t care for. I struggled with this at first, until I realized that I just simply don’t need these big groups of people with whom I have some common bond, especially when that common bond results in large gatherings of people sitting around talking about the subject.


When these groups go out and do things, I am game for coming along, but I don’t really want or need to have dinner with them once a month, or meet at their houses for lectures and meetings. So what that makes me is a much less active member in these communities, which before I really thought about all this made me feel like a slacker who wasn’t doing her part. But now I see it as being a ‘doer’ instead of a joiner. Let’s face it, if all that’s going to happen is a meeting where people talk about issues over dinner and drinks, I’d rather be at home in a wig taking pictures anyway. And so it is.


23 thoughts on “The Art of the Spiel

  1. Continue to LOVE your photographs! How you come up with such original ideas and gorgeous images is amazing! The colors just light up!

  2. Lots to mull over in here. I hear you on the joining and social stuff. And it is different to not have to earn money from your passion. In fact, our survival jobs support our passions. We are our own benefactors. Very convenient IMO. No ass kissing involved. Love the doll photos and ones where you make yourself into dolls!!!

      • I had a belated thought about this last night, out of the blue. But if we were in true danger of poverty, could we feel this way about the situation? Or would we view it all differently?

        • Oh not at all – I think it would be a different situation for sure. In fact, I felt differently about teaching at one time; it was all I knew how to do or was educated to do, so I had to make it work! 🙂 Not that I was in actual poverty then, but I was just out of college and broke for sure.

  3. I can so relate to this post, Cynthia. I happen to love fashion, wigs and working out. As a result, loads of people ask why I don’t have a career in one of these areas instead of my administrative job that pays the bills. They don’t seem to get it when I say that I don’t want a passion to turn into an obligation.

  4. Excuse me? Who’s the moron who stated that photography was not art? It is a FORM of art. Just as a painting and sculpture are forms of art. My Frenchman’s grandfather would have never been a well-known photographer if people didn’t see his photos as art. Obnoxious woman.
    YOUR photos. I’m sorry, but to me, they are portrait art. Just as Ingre, the French painter expressed his art through painting you have a gift for photography in portraits. I LOVE your portraits. And I’m in love with that photo of the baby doll’s heads in your hair. Yes. I’m that unusual soul who loves stuff like that.
    Keep on being you! You are gifted and talented and I stand behind you!!!

    • Oh yes, she did, and all the while I was standing there with a camera in my hand! And I’d already told her I was a photographer. She was so off-putting. She also spent a lot of time talking about how she was opening up an art gallery in the suburbs because people in the suburbs were stupid about art and she was there to educate us. Just SOOO ANNOYING. I disliked her immediately. And that’s someone this other woman thought should be one of my ‘connections.’ No thanks! LOL

  5. You have found and described here the real meaning of living a good life. You have a “day job” that you love (teaching: which is so very rewarding), as well as making the best use of your free time to be creative utilizing different technology, wigs, clothing, colors, lighting, etc, etc. You are your own person, and I as one, love the fact you share that here with us. Thank you so much.

  6. New follower 🙂
    It is sad that photography has become seen as having less merit. It isn’t just in the art world. So many seem to think it has less value. I tried my hand at making a living with my photography, but became disabled. I enjoy it so much more now that I do it for myself and just enjoy the projects and the results. I love your work and hope to see more of it.

    • I am glad you can still enjoy it! It is true that taking decent pictures is pretty easy nowadays, but there is still artistic vision to contend with, and there isn’t any technology available to make up for that. 🙂

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