By Ron Cowie, photographer
I’ve attended AIPAD every spring for years and love every minute of it. There is no other place where I can see the entire history of photography under one roof in one afternoon besides AIPAD. Galleries of every stripe show up and showcase their strongest work to sell. That in itself is interesting because I get a snapshot of current market trends. I won’t say the collection is comprehensive but just about every base is covered by one gallery or another.
AIPAD is the ice cream parlor in the belly of the “Photo World’s” beast. Something sweet for everyone.
It’s fun to make art and not think about money. However, if you plan to have any career in the arts that is based on the selling of said art, you had better see what people are willing to pay for work that is similar to what you are making. That’s right, if you attend AIPAD, you’re going to bump into some work that looks a lot like yours. This is a necessary dose of humility, which frees up some space for making better work. Knowing there is an audience for the work I create saves a lot of energy in the creative process.
I go to be inspired by the work of old masters and new “stars.” I also get a better idea of which galleries are “right” for my images by seeing what they are showing in their booth. Websites don’t always accomplish this in the same way. It costs a lot more to ship actual photos to New York than it does to upload images to a website. That kind of commitment to an artist speaks volumes.
At AIPAD, I get to talk to people who are just as interested in photography (gallery owners, artists, fellow collectors, curators) as I am. At AIPAD, I get to I introduce myself to a gallery owner or artist, take his/her cards and get in touch later. Some call it speed dating; I call it a lovely way to meet people who share the same interests for the sake of meeting. It beats Facebook hands down.
After all is said and done about social networks and whatnot, making and collecting art comes down to old fashioned face to face relationships. I don’t go to AIPAD to have my suspicions and cynicism confirmed but to have them dispelled. It is nice to know there is a place at the “Photo Industry” table for just about anyone willing to do the work. Galleries play a very important part in promoting photography. The investment they make to participate at AIPAD is not a small one and should be respected.
Also, I like rubbing elbows with the big shots. I know, I’m shallow for thinking that way, but it’s true. It is reassuring to see people I admire hustling as hard (if not harder) than I do. You can’t leave the Park Avenue Armory without a profound respect for the work that is being done in order to get seen there. No one gets off easy in that regard.
Business woes aside, the main reason I go is just to be an audience member for my fellow photographers. I love being able to look at the photos and buy them. I collect photography because I need to be a good viewer in order to be a good photographer. I don’t have the time or budget to make every opening that I want to attend or collect every piece that inspires me. AIPAD allows me to cover a lot of bases in an afternoon or two. Even if I leave empty handed, I’m encouraged by what I see and the people I meet. That’s worth the price of the ticket alone.