Photographic parasites

Monthly column by Thierry Maindrault

2022 really isn’t a great year, so far, for photography. This is turning into a disaster. The good photographers have disappeared from the landscape, when they have not left us for other skies. The major festivals have collapsed on themselves (black hole style). And yet…, there have never been so many aspiring photographers on our planet and so many so-called photographic and artistic events (to hell with smallness!).

Contrary to the current solutions which strive to find the miracle cure to save the few dying linked to the profession, I prefer to dwell on the origins of the problem. Why can’t an excellent photographer even make a living from his work? 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 (equally natural). The scourge that plagues the world of photography, like many others, is called parasite. This little being who lives on his dependence on another, from whom he sucks everything he can. To talk to you and identify these merry mortal jokers, a small dictionary will not be too much (our era is no longer a new word). I let myself go, sorry in advance for the voluntary semantic aberrations.

auto-patron: person, rarely physical, therefore often moral, who invests four cents in an author, for a return on investment guaranteed a hundredfold (tax credits and communication at a lower cost). The choice of creators is generally entrusted, by relations or not very artistic affinities, to an ignoramus, in particular in the field of Art.

Comexpo: character who has multiplied like hotcakes exponentially for five years. He tries to replace the traditional exhibition curators who are few in number. In an approximate francization for the French, his card bears the much nobler function of “curator”. It is important that his name is more important, on the poster, than that of the author of the photographs exhibited, even if he is ultimately only a renter of space or a photography school teacher with talent very uncertain.

Diartistic: highly trained and experienced athletes capable of doing the splits. One foot in as many useful organizations as possible to remunerate their services, the other as a coach with lost creators who seek their help; “What must I do to be exposed?”. The matchmaker is multifunctional, like a Swiss army knife. Nevertheless, his only constant line is to make believe that he is indispensable when he has, in general, never had two pennies 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 appears everywhere with his different hats that he changes his mind wonderfully in the same speech. He attaches himself to the coattails of all the 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 last born 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 awe of the latest fashionable photographic galleries. The problem is the selection of exhibitions, which is limited only to the amount of money the exhibitor will give to amaze the few predictable visitors with its essential works.

Jurephoto: 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 suitable, even for the distribution of once prestigious awards. 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 of a few weeks. After half a day spent with the exhibitor, this lightning spirit will explain to visitors, without their asking, the moods, the psychological despair and other anecdotes that presided over the creation of the image before their eyes. .

portfolio: formerly portfolio reader. Old photographers or photography professionals offered free, voluntary help and advice. The portfoliotor is more like a semi-professional in financial attractiveness and rarely in photography. Photographers who have become destitute, journalists in need of recognition, museum interns, etc. This disillusioned old actor explains – with condescension – to the poor candidate photographer (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 “workshops”. The free reading and discussion of a work of art has always been an essential foundation of creativity. How would we arrive at unacceptable mercantile operations?

Workshop Promofric: smart guy knowing how to live off the financial distress (or greed) of photographers, coupled with the breathless bliss of eternal future creators. For substantial sums, you are invited to spend a weekend with a pseudo photography star. The invited master photographer is remunerated for his presence. After exposing his concepts, he will force you to do bad plagiarism of his own images. Except to impress 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 site).

Masterclass Promofric: same profile as the animator of the workshop, plus the class “of course”!

Travel Promofric: same profile as the workshop facilitator, plus the “Long live the great outdoors” backpack! In this case, it is very rare for the professional guide to be at the intellectual height of the travellers.

Shorthand photographer: individual lost between a drawing sheet and a hammer who finally opted for computerized word processing. If the scenography has remained too long poor, even non-existent, in the exhibitions for lack of skills, it must be admitted that the current plethora of these so-called specialists has not changed the extreme poverty of the 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 absurd, is now justified by the works on display, as hermetic as the text which tries to justify their hanging on the picture rails.

The list of these characters, very often colorful, on a personal basis; but, totally useless for the safeguard and the future of the photographers, is far from being exhaustive. I left aside the second violins, less involved; 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 speakers of real presentations, the real scenographers of real enhancements are the same victims as the real authors of real photographic works. Many of these truly skilled workers are struggling to survive as this mass of parasites grows fat at their expense.

Whether we are professionals or non-professionals, authors or spectators, 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 artistic expression.

Thierry MaindraultOctober 14, 2022

your comments on this chronicle and its photography are always welcome [email protected]

Michael E. Marquez