Tag Archives: Photo

Moderated Innovation in Philanthropy

#LateNightRamblings: So, what does it take to change the world? What does it even take to change your city or your neighborhood? People have been working at it a long time, and look where we are. It just seems like, if we want different results, we need different methodology.

As I delve more into this philanthropic business, this #changemaker world, I see a lot of good ideas, but I also see a lot of inertia, and I definitely see a LOT of bad ideas. I think the thing that upsets me the most is the funding.

I see funding going to so many projects, both new and old, that are so obviously headed for failure. I think the new ones annoy me the most. Sure, they might be some short-lived fun, but in the long run, when the funding runs out, they turn out to be unsustainable. Then, what was the point of all that money?

I see the word “innovation” bandied about quite a bit. I see money going to “innovative” projects for no other reason than they are trendy. Some work out okay, but many, the majority, do not. They are just the theme of the week, they have no substance and no real, long-term merit. But, everyone wants to hop on the hashtag-of-the-week trendwagon. It is like the funders are trying to buy their way into coolness.

On the other side, many of the old style organizations, that have not kept up with the new ideas that do work, still keep plodding along, sucking up dollars that could go to leaner, more efficient organizations. The opportunities presented my new technologies and new management styles are really amazing, but so many people just stick to the “this is the way we have always done it.”

Question everything. Do the old styles of Boards work? I know, it is blasphemy to even ask. Do the old styles of executive management work? Does the old habit of working your volunteers until they crash still work? Do the old funding models still work? If the answer is yes, definitely keep it, if the answer is no, stop holding onto it just out of fear of change.

It is a balancing act that requires moderation on both ends; too bleeding edge, and you end up wasting money on things nobody ever wanted; too tried-and-true and you lose out on the potential presented by new learning. The real magic happens in that middle-area, by taking the old methods that do work, and carefully applying new methodology to them, pushing the envelope, without ripping it.

You know, but nobody wants to talk about the middle. The bleeding edge stuff appeals to the adrenaline junkies and trend-hoppers. The tried-and-true stuff appeals to the complacent and lazy. The moderated innovation that takes place in the middle appeals to no one, but it is where the actual progress happens.

I always say we are inventing the future. We are creating things things that have not been done (e.g. PhilanthroFest), but we base them on the parts of the past that work (it’s a big family festival). If you just do new stuff that has no sustainability, then it does not become the future because it eventually dies off. If you just keep doing the same old thing, then you are not inventing anything. Inventing the future means creating things from the past that are new AND sustainable.

You do have to try new stuff. You do have to learn from the past. You can do both. Unfortunately, it seems that most people think it is one or the other.

How Not to Photograph Art

So, today I was at the South Miami Art Festival taking photos, as usual, for Soul Of Miami. As I was shooting one section, a woman started hollering from across the street, “Please don’t take pictures of the art!” Before I continue, let me show you the photo I was taking at the time.


You will note that I have blurred out the actual art. Anyway, she was all apologetic, saying, “this is not a gallery, but it is a gallery,” but inside I was like, “YES! Finally!” As you know, I am a creator of arts events, a curator, and an art enthusiast. I HATE it when people photograph art. Yes, hate. I think it is a completely douchebag thing to do. (The only exception is if you are a professional reviewer shooting for a physical publication and you clear it with the artist first).

Later that day, I was speaking with an artist manager friend of mine and this person told the story of one of the other artists showing at the festival who had been dropped from his gallery because his artwork had been showing up all over Facebook. This is not a joke. When you take one of those straight-on, carefully held, nicely framed photos of a piece of art, you are, essentially, stealing from the artist. Like the image? BUY IT.

Now, you might say, “But Jaaaaaaaaaames, you are always photographing art.” Right, so let me show you the acceptable ways to photograph artwork. And, let me be clear, these are only somewhat acceptable. Even I feel a little uncomfortable doing these, but since it is my job to showcase the event, it is necessary. If the artist asks you not to do it, then don’t.

Here is the first one: “The Angle”
Shoot the art from off to the side. The flattened 2-dimensional angle makes it harder for people to reproduce. People still get the feeling of the art, but without making it easy for people to steal the image. Honestly, this one is a little too straight on for me, but it was a long week and I was not as careful as I usually try to be.

Another one I like, “We Love Art”
A nice shot of people enjoying, and partially obscuring the art. Again, it gives the viewer an idea of what the art looks like, without making it easy to reproduce. Another reason I like it is because it shows people enjoying the work.

Here is a fun one, “The Contemplative”
This is one I love. A side on shot of someone really getting into the piece. It’s so cool to see people moved by a work.

So, are you getting the idea? The idea is to give the viewer a feeling for what the art looks like, and for what the event itself looks like, without making it easy to steal the image.

Now, this is a super awesome way to photograph the art: “The Collector”
You see what she’s doing there? She is photographing the artist info for the piece of art, so she can look it up later. That is an AWESOME thing to do!

So, to keep in context with the subject of this writing, here are not one, but three examples of how not to photograph the art: “The DoucheFans”
Maybe we’ll call it two and a half negative examples. The woman in the gray pants seems to be doing “The Angle”, so that might be okay. But, the other two, definitely uncool. If you like it that much, buy it!

And here we go: “The Thief”
“Ooooh, I love this piece! I’m going to make it my wallpaper! I’m just going to snap a quick pic and share it with all my friends! Who cares if the artist can’t eat this week.” Super-uber-not-cool. Stop. Doing. This.

I’m not going to get into the, “but it could help them promote their work” nonsense, so don’t even try. Unless you are a true influencer or reviewer, your taking their work without permission and using it as your Facebook cover or phone wallpaper is NOT going to help them sell more work, believe me. It is just nonsense rationalization.

So, I hope you are getting my point. As we come up to another Art Basel, I think it is time we all consider being a little more considerate of the hard work and struggle that many artists have. If you love their work, tell them, don’t take it for yourself. They will love it if you come up and tell them how much you like their work. And don’t worry, they aren’t going to try to hard sell you on it. If you have a friend who might want to purchase it, pick up a card, don’t snap a pic. Let’s help keep the arts flourishing because, you know, Life Is Art.