2 Years and Just Shy of 5 Months Later: Part-Time Artist

Well, I didn’t keep teaching myself to code. That stopped fairly quickly. But the ideas kept coming. This past fall, in 2022, I began teaching myself how to use Unity, following the Unity Pathways. It’s been fun and slow. I’m also toying a bit with Photogrammetry. And have an idea for my 4-20 project using Photogrammetry. (Hint, it involves all the roaches I smoked during April of 2020 aka the most epic of 4/20 in my lifetime, but also the height of covid lockdowns.)

I’m now working, and have been for almost 2 years (March of 2023), at Kingston University, in the libraries, as a librarian-cum-customer-service-representative. It’s an odd, but physiologically and psychologically comfortable job. I work 3 days a week and make a decent, just livable wage. So, I’ll probably keep until something much better comes along, or I decide a change is needed, or I’m fired. The firing isn’t likely, but always possible I suppose.

Lately I’ve been thinking about going back to school. It’s varied wildly, what I would study. Here’s a list in only the order which things come to my mind: visual anthropology, anthropology, cultural studies, cinematography, documentary filmmaking, human geography, urban studies, digital media/culture, Islam (specifically covering the Kharajites, or those who left Ali’s battle against Mu’awiya I); art practice-based PhD.

I don’t know why I’m blogging. Perhaps as some public record that I am still here, still thinking as much as ever, just not doing as much as ever. I’m gonna go back to being a part-time artist. Hopefully it’s not 2 years and 5 months until the next time I write something here.

Until next time. 

Peace & Love,

A Quick Google Search: AR & Fine Art

I’m beginning to teach myself to code. I’m starting with Python, and then I’ll likely move to either C# or C++. This is in pursuit of developing my own AR/VR applications or tools or art works. I’ll likely explore coding-less means as well, as well as tangential areas of interest, like 360 photography, or virtual tours.

Each day, beyond just teaching myself some coding, I want to try to read around the internet and catch up a bit on various aspects of AR/VR in relation to fine art, but also some more mundane or business like aspects.

Today I simply googled: augmented reality fine art photography

I went through the first two pages of results and opened 6 links. I’m going to quickly skim through the links and write a short bit about them or do some free associative writing in response.

https://www.google.com/search?q=augmented+reality+photography+fine+art&client=firefox-b-d&sxsrf=ALeKk00WQAIfGFyk2XByDtx49z5fKgiciA:1599043724607&ei=jHhPX4DMJPKH1fAPovSWwA4&start=10&sa=N&ved=2ahUKEwiAwr2JpsrrAhXyQxUIHSK6BegQ8NMDegQIDBBB&biw=1366&bih=661 | augmented reality photography fine art - Google Search  || This is just the google search, in case you care to have a look yourself.

https://blog.artstorefronts.com/augmented-reality-photography/ | Why AR Has Forever Changed How Photography & Fine Art Is Sold  || This is a business’ pitch. It’s  a bit longwinded, tbh, and is a bit *face palm* inducing in its use of gifs, but it’s trying, so I applaud it for that. And it is a bit assured of itself in its copy. That all aside, the idea has merit, even if I am not totally convinced that “people don’t use apps” as they claim. The idea is, in-browser augmented reality for art purchases. You’re on your phone, on the gallery website, and therein is the option to select a piece and have a live preview of the wall in front of you with a scalable image superimposed. Turn the camera to another wall and the piece moves to that wall. Neat.

https://www.paulreiffer.com/2020/06/ar-see-your-new-fine-art-print-in-your-own-space-with-augmented-reality/ | AR - See Your New Print in Your Own Space, with Augmented Reality | Paul Reiffer - Photographer  || This is another pitch on using an in-browser AR sales tool. The copy is much cleaner and more direct, and the images do a much better job of speaking to the potential customer about how the feature is used and how to control it. It assumes that you are interested as gets to the point, whereas the previous link assumes you need convincing. I’d be more likely to pursue using this tech than the aforelinked. Not to mention, the actual images that Paul is selling are, if a tad trite here and there (how many times do I see the same shot of Firefall or Horseshoe Bend from different photographers all using HDR?), extremely well executed and composed and finished. He has a high caliber roster of clients, so I imagine his attention to detail is excellent.

https://www.lumas.com/pictures/xavier_portela/augmented_reality/ | Augmented Reality by Xavier Portela | LUMAS   || This one doesn’t have anything to do with augmented reality beyond the name. The photos are fine, they look somewhat interesting, if not a little, once again, trite, for “drawing inspiration from Manga aeshtetics” to depict Tokyo in an over-satured neon-color-scape with long exposure times. The resulting image is titled “augmented reality”. *shrug* moving on

https://fineartamerica.com/mobile-app | Augmented Reality Art App for iOS and Android - View Artwork On Your Wall - Art Virtual Reality App  || This is ANOTHER pitch for using their AR app to drive sales of prints. The link can probably be skipped, unless you want to chuckle at their pitch. What I found kind of hilarious about this pitch, done through a video, is the sort of ridiculousness of the video.

   The guy uses the app to demonstrate to a supposed-gallery owner what his prints would look like on the wall. It just seems a bit contrived. It’s blank white walls, and they’re looking one at a time, not overall at the space as to how each image would work next to each other. It would seem to me to be more valuable to be able to have a VR or 360 tour experience and be able to see multiple prints on the walls at once so you can see how they might work in relation to each other, rather than one at a time. Furthermore, he resizes the prints in the app for the gallery. I can’t imagine a gallery owner would want mass-produced reproductions for their exhibition.

   Beyond that, the video is more so selling the idea of a budding relationship brodering on artist-client to new boo between the male protagonist and female potential client, who then shows up after the artist is taking down his exhibition, casually holding a reproduction of one of his prints in her hand with a sharpie in the other like, “will you sign it for me?” I find this all hilarious because the wbesite is “fineartamerica.com” and this is not at all how a fine art scenario would go down.

   Admittedly, I did avoid opening a link to Saatchi’s AR sales technology, and they’d be more likely to know how such a scenario would actually play out. Perhaps I’ll investigate their platform in the future.

https://9to5mac.com/2020/03/17/augmented-reality-artists/ | Augmented Reality: Meet the artists creating the future of storytelling - 9to5Mac  || This is the first really interesting link. There’s not only a few artists doing some interesting things with AR (see: Heather Cathleen Dunaway Smith, Matthew Rey Treece, Susi Vetter, Darren Booth), but the article also points the way towards tools these artists are using to create art work. This is an avenue I need to explore as well, the coding-less tools to make AR artwork. I’ll let you go have a peruse of this link.

https://www.wired.com/story/augmented-reality-art-museums/ | Augmented Reality Is Transforming Museums | WIRED
|| Wired always has top notch journalism, and this article, from 2018, is no exception. It explores the potential for distruption of traditional art spaces by rogue artists using AR apps within museum-settings without permission, but it also explores the ways museums are or might use AR to increase visitor engagement and open up new possibilities for telling stories or displaying art works. Not to mention the article points to even older examples of AR art works. This is all right up my alley (“you got to fight the power, fight the powers that be”). I want to look into MoMAR Gallery, as well as artists

Sander Veenhof and Mark Skwarek who, way back in 2010, also took over several floors with an AR app. Talk about pioneers.

To Be or Not To Be Just a Photographer: Ideas, and Ideas for AR/VR & Photography

Two weeks, three weeks ago, things felt more stable in my life (oddly, considering…ya know, pandemic) than ever before.

I not only was paying all my bills on time, but I had those bills ready to be paid one month in advance. I had some guilt free money every month. I was building a good little travel fund. I had opened a SIPP (UK self-invested personal pension). And I was building funds to invest in my freelance photography business.

I’d been working since late-October 2019 for a London-based startup known as StuffStr on a freelance basis. I was the sole product photographer for their sales, doing very basic (and aesthetically not to my liking) product photography in their warehouse for a decent but somewhat low daily rate. But it was consistent, two to four days a week. I had a routine, rhythm, I’d graduated from my MA Photography program in January of 2020. In September of 2020 it would have marked two years since I moved from Iowa City, Iowa, where I’d been working in a local restaurant for around $9-10/hour. If things held until then, at the rate I was making money, two years on, I would have increased my average monthly take home by about 125%. Perhaps my gamble to uproot my life and move to London had paid off.

I had a good initial compensation negotiation with the two consultants whom hired me on behalf of StuffStr, where I had offered to remain a freelancer or come on as an employee. They agreed I had done an exceptional job, and gone above and beyond the initial scope of the job (which was just the photography, whereas I had made suggestions to the actual systems and processes in the warehouse leading up to products being photographed, I was doing manual prepping and a second round of cleaning on almost all the products, as the cleaners were often temp-agency workers who…well, rarely really cared what they were doing, or didn’t understand what or why I was training them, and I was providing beta-testing feedback on the internal app StuffStr were developing to manage the product inventory and photograph products). There was a potential acquisition/merger with a larger US based company in the works, whom had to agree terms with Adidas.

If that went through, then come September the consultants assured me we’d have a much more substantial conversation about what my contract or employment might look like going forward. I had never had this kind of conversation before, and I feel like I did a really good job in there, and I have some new skills I didn’t have before.

I’d been prepping like mad to do a good job. I re-listened to Ramit Sethi’s section on compensation negotiation from his book, listened to a The Great Courses series on conflict management and negotiation. I also spoke with two friends who had a lot of recent, bu different experience in compensation negotiation. One friend had just worked her ass off in her company and negotiated not only multiple promotions over the past year, but multiple pay raises and other concessions. The other friend has over the past few years started several businesses, and been hired on as CEO of a business of his that had been acquired, and so had extensive experience with compensation negotiation, both for himself, but also for his employees. I went through the whole situation with them, developed a game plan, and then I did a mock conversation with my friend and he gave me feedback.

Long story short, as of right now, the sale/acquisition doesn’t look like it will happen.  I had expected to work for them at least through August, which meant at least two more paychecks from them, one outstanding currently, and one more from working through August. If they go into administration, being an unsecured creditor, it’s very likely I don’t see any of the current invoice. 

Part of my prep for that conversation had been answering the question, “What if it all goes to hell?” I figured I had about a month of living expenses before things would get hairy. I have a few ideas for learning new skills, specifically related to AR/VR. I decided if it didn’t work, I would undertake an ultralearning project around AR/VR for 4-6 weeks, and try to use whatever I produce at the end to leverage some work in that field, as a new career path, utilizing my photography and art background in a space that is potentially filled with more tehcnically-minded folks than folks with an arts background like myself.

And even though I’ve had almost a week to process the changes, even though I had this game plan, I’ve not implemented it yet.

Last week I was also informed that my landlord is going to move back into the house I’m living in at the beginning of October with his wife to save money to purchase a property in central closer to his business, meaning I need to be out of here by my birthday, October 1st. Which means I need 1st month’s rent and a deposit for a new place.

I’ve spent the past year not doing as much to develop my client networks as I should have been, because I was riding the high of having one big client, which I knew back then as well as I do now that that is a dangerous game to play. Alas, I played, and got burnt. There is a chance that the sale/acquisition goes through, and I am able to get work with them again. But it seems unlikely. And, anyhow, I learned my lesson.

I need to diversify. Photography is a tough business to do in a pandemic, or from home, unless you have a studio and you’re doing product photography, or you’re doing property photography, or some other socially-distanced photography. Most of my clients outside of StuffStr were other creatives who needed portraits, and reportage/documentary/street style event photography. Those are two difficult things to book in the midst of a pandemic, though not impossible.

Next up, I’m going to listen to the last chapter in “Ultralearning” by Scott Young, then I’m going to use some of the best practices from that book to build a document with my notes and insights from listening to the book. Then I’m going to use that document to build an ultralearning project around something related to 360degree photography/virtual tours/Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality.

I hope to use whatever skills I learn both for personal projects, and to demonstrate ability in order to get client work. I’m also hoping that these skills give me more ability to get work should the pandemic stretch out, or another lock down occur.

Some personal project ideas are:
1. AR app to use when interacting with police officers, which recognizes their badge and identifies them, and provides any further open-source information, potentially their commanding officer, where they are stationed, their record, etc.

2. A VR space made of real-world locations where the London Metropolitan Police used facial recognition software in public.

3. A VR spaces that serves as a vehicle for an immersive storytelling product, using my personal photo archive and stories from my life to build out rooms as new stories are developed.

4. An AR app where user-generated content can be pinned to real world locations to identify anything from geocaches to event locations to historical documents and images about buildings or locations etc. etc. something like Pokemon Go and Facebook and wikipedia wrapped into one.

I don’t know the first thing about coding. The last time I coded anything was in 8th grade at the Knoxville Junior High School back in Iowa in 2004. I loved making Yahoo Geocities websites. But I’m gonna try. And even if I don’t try or don’t succeed, I’m happy to just put these ideas out into the universe. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t even really care if other people make them first, or make them better than I.

I guess what I’m saying is, there’s ALWAYS a lot going on in my head. I need to get myself in a position where I can show people that not only do I have a lot of ideas, but I have good ideas, potentially very good ideas. I need to demonstrate that there is good value in investing in me, supporting me. And to do that, I need to stop just having ideas, and start trying to implement them. Perhaps in 6 weeks I’ll have something to show related to all of the above. Or perhaps I’ll have gone down an ADHD-hole and come out the otherside with nothing too tangible, or perhaps it will be something tangible but totally different! I just need to keep loving myself, trusting in myself, and believing that I will make something work.  Life is a mixture of chance and intention, you can only control one of those. Such is life.

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