I’ve been flirting with the world of Fine Art Photography since I moved to Portland. It’s interesting. It’s different. It’s heady and it speaks a different language. Sometimes it is mystifying to me. And then I try to reverse the thought process, and see the world of Commercial Photography from the “other” side. We wear black (never), drive fancy cars (not any more), hang out in herds at the most chic restaurants (never in a herd and never really chic), and are superficial and close to illiterate (damn, I hope not!). But I’ve been known to be cranky about the world of Commercial Photography, and now is one of those times. Sometimes we lose sight of what we do, and who we are.
I’ve seen many things change in the course of my career, including my waistline! And my hairline. But those were inevitable I suppose. Genes, gotta love ‘em. When I started you could call Art Directors and get in to see them. Easily. Once in, you could wander the office and seek out other Ads, show a new piece of work and hang out a while. No Art Buyers, no Print Producers. The portfolio was made up of some large transparencies and some b&w prints, all held in place by a simple art box. Nothing precious. No white cotton gloves needed. Sometimes (most times), the Ads would hold your 8×10 transparencies up to the window to see them. Occasionally, if you had done a still life on a white background and the office was suitably located, the Empire State Building would appear in your still-life! I always favored the ad agencies that were near the Chrysler Building because, really, what product shot wasn’t improved by the addition of the Chrysler Building?
Then, in the Roaring ‘80s portfolios changed. Leather cases appeared. Custom leather cases. Gucci, even. The b&w prints were ceremoniously burned ’cause color was where the advertising world lived. Messengers cycled your portfolio at breakneck speed to the Art Buyer who requested it. After that who knows what happened to it, but it always reappeared, hopefully with a layout soon to follow.
And then, the Digital Age was born. Portfolios were made up of precious IRIS prints. Very expensive IRIS prints. Break out the white cotton gloves. They were beautiful, printed on $250,000 printers, and the inks were water soluble. One AD with one glass of water…ooops, sorry, well, you weren’t right for the job anyway. Now as expensive as the prints were, they were nothing unless bound in custom leather covers, embossed with your name. Leather fit for a Bentley, at least. Then it was fitted into a custom Gore Tex carrying case, zippered and velcroed to protect its precious little cargo. I succumbed to this for a while. My leather was green, sort of British Racing Green. Then I came to my senses, at least I think I did, and convinced my agents to let me put together a print portfolio with a simple double-ply, raw cardboard cover. I signed my name on it with a Sharpie. My cranky, contrary self mentioned to them that this was a personal statement: if the work inside sucked, the leather didn’t matter, and vice versa.