I suppose it’s time to explain the moniker “Damn Photo Artist”.
Said supposition seems appropriate given the current societal hankering for life to return to “normal”, the tendency to damn anything that’s not irrefutably “normal” being at the heart of the moniker.
A million years ago, while a grad-ass in Community Development at the University of Missouri-Columbia, I worked with a rural sociologist named Daryl Hobbs (shocked to discover he does not have a Wikipedia page). We were contacted by leaders from the little town of West Plains (home of Dodger great Preacher Roe, among others), where I would later intern, who wanted help engaging in economic development. What these leaders wanted – what so many want when the subject comes up – was a single bullet solution: attracting new industries or ‘marketing’ and thus stealing jobs away from someplace else. ‘Marketing’ would be considered ‘normal’. Effective economic development, however, is a multi-dimensional approach involving a dozen or more strategies and taking a decade+ to effectively take root. Hoping to impart that to the West Plains leaders, the University decided to send the persuasive Daryl Hobbs out to talk with them. They were less than pleased. One of those leaders angrily stated, “All they’re doing is sending us a damn sociologist!”
So flash ahead to more recent years, when I began exhibiting art, and I began running up against traditionalists for whom the use of computers in creating art was sacrilege. For such traditionalists, art was acceptable only when made by hand, and photography, only recently grudging accepted in local art circles, only counted as film straight out of the camera. And up I pop with … what the hell is that!? Damn!!
Even before the pandemic threw the economy out of whack there were fervent lamentations to “bring back our jobs from China”. Look, global economics is simply a shift from production/distribution to distribution/production, which effectively pits localized labor forces in competition with each other. Here’s the thing: We did that. Us. America. That’s our economic model and we got everybody else to go along with it. China simply did what we taught them to do. And the reality is, American communities have been doing it to each other for over a century. Wherever you’re reading this, there’s likely a local economic development office, and I can almost guarantee that a large part of their charge, if not their main charge, is marketing – stealing jobs away from other American communities.
Just after my West Plains gig, I was part of a cadre of people trying valiantly to get across to state leaders that a marketing emphasis in economic development was ill-advised. We stated correctly that there would always be someplace come along that could do things cheaper than we could, and that we needed wholistic policies to build broadly based community and economic development initiatives that would build economic capacity with local and sustainable resources. They responded first by ignoring us, then by deconstructing and disenfranchising anything contrary to their political policies. (Sound familiar?)
WE. TOLD. YOU. THIS. WOULD. HAPPEN. Thirty years ago.
It seems like, from the day I was born, I have flown in the face of “normal”. A one-armed guy oblivious to any notion of disability, a Cubs fan living in Cardinals country, serving in Peace Corps instead of the military, preaching public service over politics, into music and movies almost nobody else around here is, wearing not just sandals but sandals with socks, an open-wheel racer on a stock car track, riding a bike in traffic. An artist using a computer to create art. Damn. Photo. Artist. In the face of normal.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.