Building the Jeff Wall #1: A new era

Something peculiar happens when an art major graduates: they stop working.

Now, that’s not always the case, clearly. Some art major find a job in their medium or media not long after graduation. Others start a freelance company right-off-the-bat.

But more often than not, I’ve seen many of my art major friends fall off their work in one way or another — sometimes they end up doing a form of “professional” photography that they don’t really enjoy just to make ends meet. Sometimes they go into fields not typically relevant to their medium. Sometimes they become a typical starving artist (either in the way of literal starving, or the way of artistic starving).

Many people who know me know quite well how stubborn I can be — while it can be the negative stubbornness at times, more often than not it’s the stubbornness that’s fueled by my knowing what I want to be doing. In short, I’m not letting myself fall off of my work — I’m not letting myself get a job that doesn’t utilize my artistic training or allow me the time to work on my personal projects.

So, what’s one way to do this, other than applying to jobs that are fitting for me?

Build a studio.

Now, whenever I tell people I’m building a studio, they always think a lighting/portrait studio. That’s a hard no from me, dawg. The only portraiture I do is musicians, and that’s almost always on-location, not studio.

I’m talking about a printing studio. An art photographer’s studio. A computer, a printer, pin-board, and good light. After visiting my professor’s studio this spring, Iw as inspired to start working on my own studio to make my work. I firmly believe that having this kind of studio is vital for me, especially as someone who prefers the photograph as an object.

I began planning. As I will be living with my parents for the time after graduation (as many graduates do these days), I scouted my home for an ideal location for me to set up a minimal and effective studio for as low price as possible, but not sacrificing quality of work. I decided on a wall in my basement — about twelve to fourteen feet long and about eight feet tall. I walked around in front of it and envisioned how it would look and how much space would be taken up. After a few head-nods, I decided this was the perfect location for my studio — then it came to me: the name. Bill, my photo professor, nicknamed his studios “2A and 2B” (2A being the main studio, and 2B being archival and storage). I named my studio the “Jeff Wall” — and immediately realized the name is that of the significant art photographer. I proceeded to print out a portrait of Jeff Wall and will later pin that above my desk.

As of right now, the Jeff Wall consists solely of two desks and a small table which will be replaced by a bookshelf, and a metal rack holding my small archive of photographs. Nothing to behold quite yet.

Post-graduation comes with many changes. As I’m writing this, I should be working on finals. I’m currently working on moving out of my apartment back into my parents’ house. I’m applying to jobs relevant to my field. And now I’m also working on an art studio. This is the best way, I believe, to keep me working actively without burning out. The studio will always be there, and I can casually work while actively thinking about how to progress in my projects.

Here’s to a new era — the beginning of the Jeff Wall.