Walk of Shame
This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date
Today I endured the annual inconvenience and waste of an afternoon to collect my rejected portraits from a certain national prize.
From the series Edelweiss by Sharon Boothroyd, 2011, rejected 2013.
As I walked through the deathly corridors I realised I was classified, for that moment in time, as a loser. Or at least I felt that everyone who saw me was defining me as one (until I realised that they were likely to be there for the same reason) and I wondered if I would define myself as a loser too. There was a time when I would have.
I started wondering about what it means for an artist to put their work out there for others to judge; how we make ourselves dependent on others for value. What are my intentions in applying for these things anyway?
One thing I remember from uni. was my course leader saying that just because someone was showing their work in The Photographers’ Gallery didn’t mean they were successful or good. It made me think.
How do we define success?
Who do we make art for?
Who validates it for us?
Who are the ideal judges?
I suppose we would all answer differently but I realised that the reasons I entered this prize (for the exposure and potential recompense) were not particularly in line with what I value as an artist; talent, persistence and honesty. Actually, and this may be the spite talking, I wouldn’t be honoured as an artist to be included in that particular exhibition but I would be pleased to receive £30,000. I wouldn’t have seen it as a high validation of my creativity and ideas but rather a good way of getting my pictures in one of the Great British galleries and in front of a teeming crowd… who may or may not know anything about photography.
I learnt a few things about myself, I learnt that I like niche. I want to belong there. I would rather have a few followers who love what I do for the ideas and the photography than for the fact that I had hung some frames in a big gallery. I also learnt that Terence Conran (one of the judges) is not my hero nor will I ever be his. Rejection is never going to be easy and it’s important to have good work recognised, but maybe talent, persistence and honesty are good enough for now.
How do you validate what you do?