"I can name that news event in two geometric shapes..."
In light of these fundraisers I'm reminded of a an editorial which recently endorsed the opposite approach. Pim Milo argues against photographers donating to charity auctions under the theory that they undercut the free market. The idea is if you give art away, people won't want to pay for it.
Fair enough. I suppose it's also true that if you go around having sex for free you'll cripple the prostitution market. The same thing could be said for giving food to the hungry. Did you forget there's no free lunch? And who's going to pay for concert tickets when stars are willing to play in private for close friends? In fact any gift threatens the free market system. Not only are gifts impractical, they reek of socialism.
You probably see where I'm going with this. I think the idea of being stingy to preserve "market value" is absurd and asinine. The problem with Pim Milo's approach is that it presumes that everything in society has a price and that every societal transaction is driven by financial motives.
Sadly, he's half right. Most societal decisions are guided by Smith's invisible hand, and the world is heading further in that direction every day. For example, here in Eugene we have a 73 year old baseball stadium which is about to be sold to the highest bidder and converted to a shopping mall. It makes sense in pure economic terms, but from any other perspective it's ridiculous.
Do we want art bound up in that equation too? If anything has the potential to exist outside the market system, surely it's art. If we can't give away photographs once in a while, what kind of world do we live in? One where we all clutch our belongings close to us, terrified to let anything go for less than free market value? No thanks. I'd prefer the world in which photos are given and received and swapped and forgotten and found, and cherished, and, at least occasionally, fuck the free market.
Milo's argument probably does make sense for a very small segment of photographers. If your work is collectible and routinely sells for several thousand dollars it may not make sense to give it away. But how many people fit in that category? A few hundred photographers in the world? For the rest of us, I've got good news. You can give away your photos without worrying about that crap.
You're free to start giving away photos today. I don't mean on random street corners (although that idea has possibilities). I mean occasionally and in important ways. Treat your work like freshly baked cookies. Give them to friends and family. Give them to charity auctions. Swap and barter with other photographers. Breath some life into the gift economy. You can send all free photos to me at...No, no, just kidding. But seriously, why wait for the invisible hand?
I'll get off my soapbox now. I have a free print of this photo for the first person who requests it via email. (*Sorry, no longer available)