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He is Friendly the Patron


Thierry Maindrault’s Monthly Chronicle

How a street paved with good intentions becomes a hall of escheat, levelling down and a source of unwarranted money.

As always for the origin of things, patronage is based on the principle of allowing one particular human quality (physical or intellectual) to develop, to consolidate, to express itself. This assistance (material or psychological) should allow, should reassure the authors, and should also  offer access to the results obtained for the greatest number. It is this disinterested contribution that contributes to the emergence of exploits and other creations as markers of the evolution of our various human societies. Throughout History, it is these relationships, as often serene as they are tumultuous, that have allowed the birth or the preservation of unforgettable works or performances.

What about these particular connections that are exposed, in front of an active public, inside our sphere of images obtained by photography?

On the first hand, the true photographic creator who, through common tools – usable by all -, of this particular technique of making lasting images, conceives, produces, obtains works which express themselves, by themselves, beyond pictorial representation. This competent woman or man who finds himself a bit of a prophet, a bit of a precursor.

On the other hand, a leader of our societies, through his economic, political or spiritual weight, dreams of leaving a trace of his passage on our planet. This character is aware of his personal inability, despite his other great and often real talents, to leave behind him one of these beacons which participate in the evolution of a civilization. The sponsor takes the part of supporting the creations of such and such photographers by providing them with the tools and means necessary for the realization of innovations and their distribution to the greatest number.

In principle, these centuries-old engagement were at the origin of exceptional works which became, after a probationary period (the one which establishes the deaths of the first who then takes the title of artist as well as that of his Pygmalion), authentic works of Art.

Unfortunately, this natural and mutually beneficial way has been misguided, during its evolution, by the artificial construction of cultural highways. The state standardising levelling, the steamrollers of finance, the blood draining of phony art schools, a whole artificial microcosm for an art that is both self righteous and remunerative. These self-proclaimed little areopaguses now decide for the public what will be good for their perfectly formatted intellectual health. It is pleasant to note that to justify their indispensable presence, all these geniuses of the artistic “business” are able, in record time, of canceling their choices of last year and to worship images that they will refute next year. We have entered a marvelous time.

The stupidity of either of them has reached heights with, for three/four years, the reversal of roles. Didn’t you notice? But yes, it is authentic! It is the creators (well, let’s be clear about pseudo-creators in need of personal recognition) who pay the patrons (well, let’s be clear about the pretending patrons). Owners of fake art gallery, rigged contest organizers, rogue publishers, making more money than they spend. The payment of a royalty to be exhibited, the payment of a registration to participate in a selection decided by a jury under supervision, the payment of publishing costs for the production of a book have become commonplace. The payment on all levels is required to allow generous patrons to support works that everyone will have forgotten six months later.

Let’s not forget all the same, the great patronage which relies on extraordinary means, I want to mention state support and that of gigantic multinationals. The common points of these two so-called supports for creation and its safeguard are clearly displayed. On the one hand, the essential remains the career plans of the delegated individuals who make the appropriate choices for their benefactress enterprise. It should be noted in passing that these employees, whose skills are sometimes very discreet, willingly go from one camp to the other; when they do not find it more reliable to have a foot on each side. On the other hand, it is undeniably welcome to have a well-balancedfinance to justify an indisputable success. Their wages and those of their friends – all equally exorbitant – being included. The range of resources remains unlimited, from the public subsidy to the entrance fee, including the recovery of artworks, nothing is left to chance. All these financial solicitations, which gradually prohibit access to the works presented for the greatest number of people. I grant you that some images are so bad that it is rather a relief to make them inaccessible to those who do not have the means. Let’s avoid waste for the difficult ends of the month and let our elites keep the privilege of accessing mediocrity.

We have arrived at a rather lackluster world that hijacks everything in the name of the communicating ego and the virtual gods of money. However, we have to be honest. There remain sincere patrons who do not automatically put their name on their foundation and who do not transform an exhibition into a commercial gallery of their personal activity. The same are personally involved in the operation of their generosity and enjoy highlighting the artworks they support by being discreet and assisting the authors, without ulterior motives and without making them media beasts, or more.

So, ladies and gentlemen, organizations or individuals, patrons you must know that your proteges are more concerned about your contributions to allow them successful and serene work on their creations in order to make them sustainable and accessible to all. Photographers and their images are not destined to become the “sandwich men” of a banker, a car manufacturer, a champagne company, or even a cosmetics seller. The pinnacle goes to the camera manufacturer who is unable to recognize an imperfect promptographic image in a prestigious competition dedicated to Photography.

Thierry Maindrault, May 12, 2023

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