Thierry Maindrault’s Monthly Chronicle
The year 2022 is really not great, so far, for photography. It is turning into a disaster. Good photographers disappeared from the landscape, when they did not leave us for other heavens. The big festivals collapsed on themselves (black hole way). And yet…, there have never been so many would-be photographers on our planet and so many supposedly photographic and artistic events (to hell with littleness!).
Contrary to the current solutions which strive to find the miracle medicine to save the few dying people linked to the profession, I prefer to focus on the origins of the problem. Why can’t an excellent photographer even live by on his job any more? Why do you have to prostitute yourself to survive with Photography? An answer is every day before our eyes in Nature, and it is also validated by the Laws of Economics (just as natural). The scourge that strikes the world of photography, like many others, is called parasite. This little being who lives by his dependence on another, from whom he sucks everything he can. To talk to you and identify these merry deadly jokers, a small dictionary will not be too much (our time is no longer a new word away). I let myself go, sorry in advance for the voluntary semantic aberrations.
Automecene: person, rarely physical, therefore often corporation, who invests four cents on an author, for a hundredfold guaranteed return on investment (tax credits and low-cost communication). The choice of creators is generally entrusted, by relations or not very artistic affinities, to an ignoramus, especially in the field of Art.
Commexpo: character who has multiplied like hot cakes exponentially for five years. He tries to replace the traditional and few real exhibition curators. In an approximate francization for French people, his card bears the much nobler function of “curateur”. It is important that his name be more important, on poster, than that of the author of the photographs on display, even if he is ultimately only a space renter or a photography school teacher with very uncertain talent.
Dirartistic: highly trained and experienced athletes capable of doing the splits. One foot in as many useful organizations as possible for remunerating their services, the other as coach to lost creators who seek their assistance; “What must I do to be exposed?”. The matchmaker is multifunctional, like a Swiss army knife. Nevertheless, his only constant line is to make people believe that he is essential when he has, in general, never had two cents of imagination.
Dircom: character thirsty for cocktails and other “meet and greet”. In our modern world, which lives only on all-out communications and personal notoriety, he shows up everywhere with his different hats that he changes opinions wonderfully well in the same talk. He attaches himself to the coattails of all creators who must have him in their camp. He also likes to vampirize, the slightest manifestation likely to establish his reputation. A twin of the dirartistic, one to channel the creative thought of the photographer, the other to diffuse the aura of the creator.
Galerimmo: the latest of the band of freeloaders. Character full of finesse who declares himself a gallery owner by buying, or renting, a butcher’s shop, a hairdressing salon, a shoe repair shop, a laundry or any other bankrupt business. A coat of white paint with an installation of picture rails, and you are in the wonder of the latest fashionable photographic galleries. The problem is the selection of exhibitions, which is limited only to the money amount that the exhibitor will give to amaze the foreseeable few visitors with his essential artworks.
Jurephot: neophyte chosen precisely for this reason. This extra is authorized to give his opinion, under influence, for the selection of winners or participants. The circles of seasoned and competent professionals are no longer appropriate, even for the distribution of prizes that were once prestigious. The presence of Mr “everyone” is essential to determine who must be exposed and who will win the gold medal to embellish his website.
Photographic mediator: young or less young unemployed from a more or less specialized school or from a flash retraining course lasting a few weeks. After half a day spent with the exhibitor, this lightning spirit will explain to visitors, without their asking, the moods, psychological despair and other anecdotes that presided over the creation of the image in front their eyes.
Portfolioteur: formerly portfolio reader. The ancient photographers or the photography professionals offered voluntary and free help and advice. The portfoliotor is more like a semi-professional of financial attractiveness and rarely photography. Photographers who have become destitute, journalists in need of recognition, museum interns, etc. This disillusioned old actor explains – with condescension – to the poor photography applicant (after payment of a tidy sum by the latter) that he has understood nothing and that he will have no future if he does not modify his project and without following a few “workshop”. Free reading and discussion of an artwork has always been an essential foundation of creativity. How could we arrive at unacceptable mercantile operations?
Promofric de workshop: clever little guy knowing how to live off the financial distress (or the greed) of photographers, paired with the breathless bliss of eternal future creators. For substantial sums of money, you are invited to spend a weekend with a pseudo photography star. The invited master photographer is compensated for his presence. After laying out his concepts, he will force you to do some bad plagiarism of his own images. Except from impressing your friends: “I spent the weekend with X, it was extraordinary…”, nothing else tangible in your status (except the mention of this exploit on your website).
Promofric de masterclass: same profile as the workshop organizer, plus the “of course” class!
Promofric de voyages: same profile as the workshop organizer, plus the backpack, “Long live the great outdoors”! In this case, it is very rare for the accompanying professional to be at the intellectual height of the travellers.
Stenophotographer: individual lost between a drawing sheet and a hammer who finally opted for computerized word processing. If the scenography has remained poor, even non-existent, in the exhibitions for too long for lack of skills, we must admit that the current plethora of these so-called specialists has not changed the extreme poverty of crazy presentations. The only novelty lies in the presentation of immense biographies and long explanations on the spiritual and psychological origin of the photographs exhibited. This last phase, which may seem ludicrous, is now justified by the works exhibited, as hermetic as the text which attempts to justify their hanging on the picture rails.
The list of these characters, very often colourful, on a personal basis; but, totally useless for the safeguard and the future of the photographers, is far from being exhaustive. I left on the side the second fiddles, less engaged; but equally harmful.
Above all, I don’t want real professionals to feel involved in this bitter mockery. The real managers of real galleries, the real curators of real exhibitions, the real jurors of real competitions, the real lecturers of real presentations, the real scenographers of real enhancements are the same victims as the real authors of real photographic artworks. Many of these real competent workers survive with difficulty while this mass of parasites grows fat at their expense.
Whether we are professionals or non-professionals, authors or audiences, passionate or naive, we must be vigilant, very vigilant. The race to the bottom, especially when the bottom is financial and populist, has never carried cultural diffusion and never elevated the artistic expression.
Thierry Maindrault, October 14, 2022
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