Creative: Palm Springs Photo Festival Recap

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Okay kids, so much has happened since we last spoke. I just slept ten hours. I’m still kinda groggy. The Palm Springs Photo Festival 2018 is now in the books, and I’m now attempting to dig out after being off the grid for a week. You’ve heard me drone on about this event in the past, and I’ll probably do so in the future. This was the thirteenth year of the event, and I think I’ve attended eleven of those years, many of which came AFTER I stopped working as a photographer.

My primary goal this year was to teach an artist book class with Michelle Dunn Marsh. The class went really well, and I was truly amazed at how the students responded, some of whom had never made a book. This was not a Blurb bookmaking class. This was about bringing a completed project in print form, editing those prints, sequencing those prints and then pasting them into a book dummy so you would walk away with a working maquette of your project. This is by no means an easy process, so you have to give it up for these folks who came in and threw down.

I’ve included many images from this class, so if you are wondering the logistics were this should give you an idea.

As for the festival itself. What did I take away?

1. Inspiration is perhaps the most overused word in our industry today, but there is NO WAY you are going to walk in to this event and NOT walk out ready to set forth on a new project. NO WAY. A typical festival event may have ten, fifteen maybe twenty five faculty members. This event has over 120. These are the absolute best the industry has to offer, and once again I must clarify that this is the ACTUAL photography industry not the ONLINE photography industry. These are the advertising, commercial, editorial and fine-art photographers, and the galleries, curators, publishers, editors, art buyers, agents, etc. Throw in a finely selected group of vendors and you have quite a situation on your hands. Not to mention the attendees, who number in the hundreds, and you have the best photography related event in the United States. I came out fired up to get back to photography, but to get back in a way I’ve never attempted before. To try new things, to look at photography in a new way, and to go much, much further than I ever have. (I still have no desire to be a working photographer however.)

2. The opportunity to teach. I have far more fun teaching other people how to make books than doing it myself.

3. Blurb is everywhere. I attended a portfolio review and in the first five minutes noticed at least eight people using Blurb to show their work to potential clients.

4. An event like this can change your career. People are making deals, getting deals and are landing jobs, assignments, etc. from being at this event and putting the time in to better understand how the industry works.

5. There is A LOT of great work being done. You might not always see it. It might not have a place in the industry, but it’s out there. And it’s being produced by people you have never heard of.

There is a let down after an event like this ends, almost like a post-festival mini-hangover, but in this particular hangover you actually want to reengage with what made you feel this way. But now we wait. And we work. And we plan for next year.

Comments 5

  1. Just by reading this I feel a bit fired up too!

    By the way, mind to elaborate a bit on this? “… I came out fired up to get back to photography, but to get back in a way I’ve never attempted before. To try new things, to look at photography in a new way, and to go much, much further than I ever have. …”

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      Conceptual work. It’s the only work that is still alive in my mind. The rest of photography has been so marginalized, so commoditized, etc. Concept work isn’t as much about the photography but more about the ideas. I always looked away from this work, but no longer. I have zero interest in putting this work out, but I’m still going to do it.

  2. Thank you Dan for your intelligence, energy, humour, photographic skills, and book love. Year two was even better, and hoping we can keep this circus going at least once more this year. I agree, so proud of what our committed students came in and walked away with. Hard work in two days and they DID it!

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