This post is a little removed from writing about photography, but it does relate in that it concerns what happens to someone who has made photographing, making prints and exhibitions a profession over several decades.
In January I will move out of the studio I've had for 22 years into a new one. One of the wonderful percs of the job I had at Northeastern University was that I was given a studio in a school-owned warehouse rent free. Now that I am retired I needed to move on.
I searched through late summer and early fall for a space that would be large enough, affordable, secure and pleasant to work in and found one in a building in Allston MA, near where I live in Cambridge. Finding a studio can be tough, at least here in the Boston area. I learned to persevere and to network.
If you've looked at the work on my site you may be thinking to yourself, "What's he need a studio for, he doesn't shoot in a studio?" Very true, and in all those years I only used the studio as a place to make photographs a few times. This is an aside, but my students did use it many times, with the most notable instance being when two male students built a mock up of a WW II B-52 bomber in bas relief in the space to display on its side pinup photographs in the Vargas style.
A studio for me is where I store my work, where exhibitions come back to after being shown and where I do the matting and framing needed to get shows ready to go out. I also do any scanning necessary there. Just as important, the studio is where I show curators, collectors, colleagues, friends, etc. my work. So my studio becomes a place where I want to present myself professionally and it is a reflection of my aesthetic.
Does this mean the studio needs to look high end and "designed"? Not at all. What little furniture I have is more "hand me down" and "Ikea" than anything else. But organized and neat is important as well as emphasizing the work, both in the storage of the sets of portfolios I have but also in the display of work on the studio walls.
This is my studio a few years ago, ready for a Sunday afternoon event that was by invitation only where I showed work to friends, museum directors and a few collectors:
This is the same space now, packed up and almost ready for the move in a couple of weeks:
Obviously, studios are different things to different people but one thing seems to be clear. Studios are a place that is somehow dedicated to the creative process. In my case it is about looking at my photographs, editing them, making them into portfolios, making them ready to show, and so on.
I print my own work and presumably always will as I like the control over my pictures this gives me. Plus it is cheaper. I print at home and bring the results to the studio to finish the work. Where I live is too small to house all the work done over my career. I have a friend who has her work space in the top floor of her house. She prints there and makes the work ready for display there too. I admit to being a little envious of this and maybe I will do this one day too. On the other hand there may be some good in separating out work from your living space.
If you're serious about photography I believe it is important to get your act together about your work. There is discipline in being a full time artist, a need to be organized and a financial investment too. A studio can help in making the commitment and is a place to immerse yourself in your work, hopefully without distractions. I recommend it highly.