What do you do with new work? Sit on it? Show it around? Take it on the road? And when do you know new work is finished? And why does it need to be?
This is the thing: there are many many people turning out new work all the time. There are too few places showing it and there are too few people purchasing it to make being a photographic artist viable for most. Portfolio reviews provide a service, they give people a forum in which to get work seen. On line galleries are usable as they allow you to get your work seen by many without a big financial investment (although have you ever read what people write about work on those? Pathetic). Websites are also good as they allow you to show a lot of work made over your career. Shows are best, of course, but the cold hard truth is that fewer people are going to see shows these days. Even though anyone who knows anything about art advocates for seeing the actual print hanging on a wall, the truth is that more people will see your work in some secondary way. This means that more are seeing your photography than ever before because it is on line in some way but that they are not seeing it in its best light. So it goes.
My friend Patrick Philips (editor and publisher for the magazine Martha's Vineyard Arts and Ideas: MV A&I) speaks eloquently about our consumer-based culture. I believe this connects with how we are hanging onto a previous model for art that denies the reality that we are into some big changes here. The newest thing? Art being sold online. Amazon, Saatchi, Orignal Art, etc. are all selling art directly to buyers with no middleman, no gallery, no context in which to place the art. Good idea?
Back to you and me. Back to discussing what we do with our new work. What I do is get people to see it. I subject friends, colleagues, assistants, to new work, then pay very close attention to what they say and don't say about it. Seeing the work through their eyes is a really important part of why I do what I do. This is the place where I learn how its working, whether I've printed it well, how the sequencing is working, if I have too many or too few, and so on.
A couple of weeks ago I was a guest at Michael Hintlian's Crit Group at his home on the north shore (Michael's website). They showed work, discussed it and Michael helped them arrive at an "A" edit, meaning that the best images stay and anything else is out. Michael's approach is excellent and tough but considered and fair. Contact him through his site if you are interested in joining his group. This proved to be an excellent way to share new work, to get responses from those very experienced and those newer to the medium.
When do you know new work is finished? For me, this can be hard but usually when it feels right, sits right in my heart and in my head, looks complete and somehow appears "solved"to me. At this point I am usually looking around for something new, getting anxious to go somewhere, to begin something new.There can be a certain peace of mind when you realize you're not into that work anymore, that perhaps you've moved on to another body of work or a new idea.
Why does new work need to be finished? So that you can move on, of course. We should finish bodies of work as much as possible before we move on to a new project. I have learned to think of past work as the best I could do at the time I made it. This doesn't mean that I accepted compromise, simply that it was what I was capable of at the time. Looking back at past work I see problems, of course, things I'd like to go back and fix. But life is short and there are many many new projects that lie ahead. Dwell in the past or move ahead into the future? That's a no brainer, at least for me. I don't know if I can say this correctly, but perfection is not always the goal. This seems strange for me to say as I am such a stickler for my work being as perfect as I can make it. But striving for technical perfection is at the service of making my work speak eloquently. By this I mean that I want the image to come through without the constraint of some small flaw or poor print quality getting in the way.
One last thing as I ramble along here: watch out for the end goal. Is it to achieve fame and fortune? Is it realizable? Does it matter? Or is it to immerse yourself in the work, to be involved in seeing and sharing your insight, to be making things that are beautiful and enrich your life and others' lives?
New Work: make it the best you can, show it around, finish it and move on to the next one.