Fun with the Franks

Family pictures should be fun. No! Seriously! They should be FUN. Does that mean every second is fun and there is no awkwardness? Well, no, of course not… let’s not be ridiculous.

But shouldn’t there be moments of genuine laughter, moments when we LET the kids make silly faces, moments where, just for a split second, we forget why we’re there and just enjoy it?

I firmly believe that’s how it should be. It takes some work to get us there… to overcome the camera awareness, to defocus from the posing, to try to achieve spontaneity without compromising the quality of a professional photograph… but I’ll work at it, every time, and if you hire me, I promise it will be worth it.

Here’s the Franks family… dad Dustin, mom Janell, daughters Kaitlynn, Hannah, & Emma.

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Spiva partnership

As if there hasn’t been enough going on lately, I had to add just one more… but this one is so fun.  🙂

As many of you know, I’ve been hosting the third thursday Photo Booth upstairs at Spiva Center for the Arts, my town’s mainstay art gallery. It’s turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Spiva. I love the folks over there- Shaun, Jo, Linda, and others, who have been gracious and extremely supportive in letting me run ‘the booth’ out of their long established facilities.

Shaun recently approached me with a NEW idea and we were both nearly beside ourselves with giddiness (yes, one of THOSE ideas) after talking it over.

 

The idea::  I’m just going to quote spiva’s website directly for the official announcement:

‘Teams select a Rockwell illustration to interpret, provide their own costumes and props and pose for a photo October 21. Mark Neuenschwander, 9art Photography, will photograph the reenactments and display them in Spiva’s 3rd Street window gallery. Winning image will be selected by popular vote and will receive a Norman Rockwell prize package. All teams receive one complimentary copy of their photograph.’ [last date to register for this is October 21; the shoot night itself will be October 26].

To break it down: anyone in the community can assemble a ‘team’ (this could be 2 people or 20) to RE-CREATE a Normal Rockwell ‘Post’ cover, in any way they see fit. The interpretation does not have to be literal… you can re-create it as a medieval scene, a ‘dr who’ themed tribute, a modern day re-eanactment… WHATEVER YOU WANT.

The fee per team is $25. And I’m really, really hoping we get a lot of teams to do this. You can grab people from your workplace (if you’re a business owner, this could be a super fun team exercise), do it with your family, brainstorm with some good friends… the important thing is just to do it. Doesn’t have to be complicated- you don’t need to rig elaborate backgrounds or hire professional actors or come up with the world’s cleverest concept- many of the original covers were very simple, and your idea can be as well. The important thing is just to do it.

So who’s in? 🙂

I’ll leave you with this; if you live in Joplin, please go see that exhibit. 323 Normal Rockwell post covers, are on display in the gallery RIGHT NOW and will be up until November 8th. You have one month to look at those covers (whether in person, or through a google ‘norman rockwell post covers’ image search), get inspired, and contribute to this project.

I’ll be working on some personal images in which I create my own Rockwell-inspired scenes, and should have those images up as examples in the next week or so. If you have questions about a possible concept, I’d love to talk with you about it.

Til next time…

-Mark

‘back to school’ photobooth theme from the 9art photobooth!

I was excited this month to have props loaned from Joplin schools, Missouri Southern, and several kind individuals so those that stopped by could sport their favorite school colors.

Here’s a few of my favorites, while you’re waiting on the whole batch to show up on the book of faces!
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joplin missouri downtown third thursday photobooth- back to school theme, sept 2014, 9art photography_0022b

 

We also launched our new downtown joplin print series… thanks to those who made purchases!! If you’d like to snag some downtown images of your own as prints, canvases, or postcards, you can check out more in our previous blog post about it or on the new section of our main website.

downtown joplin series, samples for 8 x 8 canvas

SUCCESS, or 4K on FB :: an awesome nothingness (artist post #1)

Today, My business reached 4,000 fans on facebook.

FOUR. THOUSAND. FANS.

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whoa. That’s kind of a big deal.

No! It’s a huge deal. I’ve spent years working up to this! 4,000 fans?! OMG!!!! (if anyone cool enough to have like 20,000 fans on facebook is reading this, stop laughing).

It’s crazy. There it is…it’s the proof… I’ve MADE IT.

Right?

Oh wait.

Crap. Reality sets in… and reminds me to ask the question… what does this actually mean?

HUH… Ab-so-lutely NOTHING.

Urban Dictionary’s definition of Internet famous: ‘A limited and perhaps temporary state of notoriety enjoyed by people, groups, works or feats that are made public exclusively (or nearly so) via the internet.’

It’s a level of ego-boosting that is so much more quickly accessible in our generation than any before it. We’re always one youtube video, buzzfeed article, silly photo series or trending tweet away from internet famous. It always feels like it’s juuuuuust outside our grasp, and there is a part of our brain that’s wasting so much precious energy figuring out how WE could become the next trending topic.

What is it really, even if you DO reach that status?

Glorified distraction.

Another friend posted on twitter today…. ‘Based solely on @dribbble, I’m a huge hit in the former USSR.’

Obviously, he knows it doesn’t matter and is even poking fun at his own internet fame. But even when we’re laughing at ourselves, it highlights the fact that we’re a generation that obsesses about these things. Not because we’re weaker than generations before, but because we have the means to be.

I’ve gained a lot from a book called ‘the war of art‘, which deals with something called resistance. Resistance, says author Steven Pressfield, is anything which gets in the way of us creating what we are supposed to create. Anything that keeps us from ‘doing our [creative] work’. This is something I’ll bring up a lot as I continue writing posts for artists. (I started this blog series with this post about a month ago).

One of the greatest forms of resistance, says pressfield, is simply other people’s feedback, and the sense of ego that this feedback either pumps up or destroys. Internet famous is the ultimate result of this sought feedback, but the distraction exists on a much smaller scale for literally any artist with an internet connection.

Me, for instance, and my facebook fans.

How much time have I spent, checking how many fans I have now, or how many ‘likes’ my last picture received, or how many ‘shares’ I got on my last post, or how many views my blog got last week?

If I had kept track of that time, I would be so ashamed. I am, in fact, ashamed even without seeing the hard data… I know that if I put all that time together in one place, I could have used it to like, cure a disease or something (that includes the years of med school). Ok, so not really…

But why is this thing so bad? Just because of the wasted time that could have been spent doing more productive things? That’s one reason, of course. But let’s look at it on a more subtle level. What we are doing, when we put that much energy into how people are responding to our work, is putting our very self worth into their response to us. And there’s no winning in that.

If they respond well… we run the risk of catering to that response the next time we create.                                                            If they respond poorly (or not at all)…. we run the risk of catering to that *lack of* response the next time we create.

Either way… this isn’t going to end well when it comes to the thought of creating out of our hearts and souls, rather than out of the purple people pleaser that dwells in all of us. And creating from that deeper place may not matter to you. If not, then don’t worry about it. But if you know better…

From ‘the War of Art’:

Remember, resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. IT wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason-for-being, on the response of others to our work. Reistance knows we can’t take this. No-one can.

And one more quote:

[the pro] has seated his professional consciousness in a place other than his personal ego. It takes tremendous strength of character to do this, because our deepest instincts can run counter to it.

So how do we respond to this? By ignoring everyone else? By refusing all feedback? Well, let’s not go overboard here… we still need other people, no doubt about it. Some of the best moves I’ve made have been based on feedback. And when it comes down to it, if you’re trying to run a business with your art, then what people think still matters because someone has to like your work well enough to pay for it. (the bittersweet compromise of doing what you love for a living).

The thing to keep in mind, is that there are different types of feedback, and we have to ask ourselves what we’re really looking for when we seek it. And perhaps more importantly, who we are seeking it from.

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Is it close friends? Trusted confidants? Other artists who know what they are talking about? people in our own medium that may be further along than us and have valuable words to help us evaluate and grow our craft? Those sources of feedback aren’t distraction. They are necessary at times, so long as we don’t let them change our work into something untrue to us, something that it shouldn’t be.

Or, are we instead seeking our feedback solely from the crowd? Michael Gungor addresses that in his book ‘the crowd, the critic, and the muse’… “The crowd’s affection, with all its adrenaline-inducing power, is a fickle and shallow drug.” Gungor talks more about that and goes on to say his outlook toward ‘the crowd’ does not mean he’ll turn into a snob and stop signing autographs or performing concerts for said crowd. That crowd also helps fuel us with their appreciation, and after all, most of us are creating something that is meant to be appreciated. What he’s saying is that he doesn’t let their feedback influence the art he’s set out to create.

And we have to be careful there. Because setting the crowd before us to give us accolades- and listening only to them- makes each of us king of a self-created, delusional domain. It weakens us to the truth about our work.

Maybe you are an ok photographer (or writer, or illustrator, or graphic designer). But you know what? Literally ANYONE can start a photography ‘business’, post a couple of photos, and receive praise from new ‘fans’ (and from friends that can’t take as good a photo as you even if it’s crap). It does not mean your work is good. It does not mean your work is not good. Really, it doesn’t mean anything, period. And, even if you want to remove the more emotional aspect of creating ‘true’ art and focus on the financial aspect… well, ‘likes’ and ‘fans’ don’t equal actual currency any more than than they equal truth about art. That’s something I’ve discovered time and time again.

4,000 fans on facebook is a wonderful and humbling thing to happen to me… and don’t get me wrong, I AM appreciative of the positive feedback I get from people and it encourages me. But it doesn’t tell me if I’m actually becoming a better photographer, nor does it mean I’m ‘rolling in it’. In fact, like I said in a previous post, it’s been one of the hardest years I’ve had in a long time. Interesting, eh?

So when it’s time to evaluate if you are actually making progress, improving your craft, and improving your business skills, you can find yourself blinded by the  praise of a virtual crowd.

How do we evaluate how the crowd is influencing us?

I made a set of checklists to help you honestly answer that, or at least to begin. I based it on my own weaknesses in this area, something I still struggle with all the flippin’ time…

the ANTI-CHECKLIST (you’re in trouble, and so am I)

-do you limit the amount of times you check the ‘status’ of your posts/pictures/tweets/e-mails per day?

-do you ever allow uninterrupted time for creative projects in which you do not permit yourself internet access for a set period of time?

-do you ever create something, then only show close friends/family or trusted advisors (rather than posting it online)?

-do you spend a good amount of time comparing your work to the work of competition (while silently cursing yourself)?

-do you frequently post work (or even non-work) solely for the encouragement of positive feedback and let that feedback dictate what is ‘truth’ about the quality of your work?

ok. So if you answered yes to those things, then you might have an issue. So here’s another checklist… one to present yourself every week, or even every day, to make sure you’re spending your social media time wisely…

the social-media-evaluation CHECKLIST: 

-is it helping others? do it.
-is it giving you constructive feedback that you are seeking for the actual improvement of your craft?
-are you putting that time spent on internet presence, in it’s proper place in your schedule?
-is it contributing to tangible success by promoting the sale of your work or establishing your presence among potential buyers of your work?
-is it giving you actual, helpful relationships that help improve yourself, your work, and/or others?
-do you have time for it given everything else you have to do today? If so, how much time do you actually have? Only spend that.

That’s enough rambling for today.

Now, don’t forget to click ‘like’ on this post.

Please?

😉

-Mark

new JoMo Print series for the Downtown Joplin Alliance!

downtown joplin series, main street joplin sample for 16 x 24 canvas

Exciting announcement to make, in collaboration with the Downtown Joplin Alliance! These are the guys in Joplin that make third thursday happen, that help fund projects to make downtown a better place, and who spend time brainstorming on how to make our downtown generally awesome. They’ve had their work cut out for them, but they’re making it happen and I’m proud to know them.

So here’s the deal… a way to support your favorite local photographer (if that’s not me, I’ll forgive you), support downtown Joplin, and get something awesome out of it.

For a good long time I’ve been thinking about offering a series of prints of some of my work that isn’t centered around people.

I’m not a landscape photographer by trade- my motto has typically been, if there’s not people in the shot, I’m bored- but over the past couple of years I’ve snagged some really fun shots around town that I believe show off the beauty of our fair city. I’m proud of the set I have.

I’m going to release the shots in increments, starting with a specific set of downtown prints that I believe to be living-room-wall worthy. So excited to start the set off with a partnership with the DJA, as 20% of the profits will go straight to them (and therefore, straight to downtown).

I also have a 2nd project lined up with the DJA for closer to Christmas. I can’t tell you what it is, but ho-ho-hopefully it’s going to be an awesome time. 😉

THE SERIES: and how YOU CAN BUY DOWNTOWN JOPLIN PICTURES!

Our LAUNCH for this series is this thursday, during the third thursday art walk– with some of the physical images on display in two different locations:

#1: the 9art Photo Booth in Spiva (third and wall), upstairs

#2: ON main street  (in front of Blue Moon Market, 6th & main)- look for the DJA booth

There will also be order forms in both locations… you can order on-site and get your print(s) back in a couple of weeks.

IF YOU ORDER THAT NIGHT…. you’ll get 10% off on these. You are still more than welcome to order after that by contacting either myself or the DJA directly. Here’s a listing of the possibilities:

•postcards-  $5 / ($15 for set of 4)

•matted 8 x 10s-   $25

•small canvas- 9 x 9-    $30 / ($100 for set of 4)

•medium canvas- 10 x 20-   $75 

•large canvas- 16 x 24-   $100 

Here’s a sample of the images & crops for 2 of the 10 x 20″ canvases (which would look SUPER fun bought together… looking down main street, day and night!)
downtown joplin series, main street joplin sample for 10 x 20 canvas

downtown joplin main street view from DJA series by 9art photography2

Here’s 4 of our 9 x 9″ canvas samples & what they’d look like together…
downtown joplin series, samples for 8 x 8 canvas

So a nice variety of options- from a little memento of the town you can send to a friend, to a full sized wall-art installment- and all offered at a very nice rate.

After our physical third thursday launch, I plan to set up a little sub-gallery on the main 9art website with full options for sizes/images.

That’s the scoop! If you have any questions about these, you can feel free to get ahold of me by e-mailing markn@9artphoto.com.

-Mark

baby Kate @ 6 months

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I joked on facebook when I first posted this photo… 20 seconds after the last cry. .5 seconds before the next cry. 10 minutes before the sun set. Timing is everything.

photography often = 10% technical skill, 90% timing, at least with little ones.

And speaking of timing… seems like only a few months ago I shot Emily & Matt’s wedding… and maybe a couple of weeks ago that I shot newborn pictures of little Katherine.

Nope. Time just seems that way. It’s actually been years since the wedding and 6 months since this little girl was born. Now she’s ‘Kate’ through and through and what a big smile this lady has and brings to her parents.

May she bring one to you too! 🙂

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the times, they are a’changin (big news for 9art)

commercial work from southwest missouri commercial photographer 9art

 
I meant to put up about 3 different blog posts last week. Yeah, that didn’t really happen.

Truth is… it’s gotten kinda busy. That’s a good thing, no, a GREAT thing, after a slow summer of me trying to figure out what it is I’m supposed to be doing.

That split image above is pretty representative of how it’s felt lately… piecing together a little bit of everything in my work- taking on some extremely varied projects and trying to determine which type of work I’d like to continue.

Maybe it’s just that tiny, tiny hint of fall in the air, I’m not sure. But things are changing, shifting, cascading (I’m done) in a direction I’m pretty excited about. So I can’t give away everything, but here’s part 1 of a peek into what’s brewing…

GOING COMMERCIAL

So, for years now, my bread and butter has been pretty much the same formula….

#1: Family photography
#2: Wedding photography
#3: senior photography
#4: commercial photography

And I have LOVED it. But over the course of the last year, things have started to shift. Now, it’s starting to look more like this:

#1: commercial photography
#2: portrait photography (families/seniors)
#3: wedding photography

What’s that mean? Does it mean I’m kicking my family clients to the wayside? Not at all. Don’t you worry… if you want me to shoot your family (with a CAMERA!), that is still going to happen.

 
joplin mo family photographer 9art photography, baby brooklyn's 1 year shoot_0011

 

What this DOES mean, however- is that in coming years, my schedule for family, senior, & wedding photography is probably going to start filling up faster as I work on a new focus (pun intended).

That focus is commercial photography- which means:

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This also means that likely before the year is out, you will see me literally split my business in two. The 9art brand will remain devoted to portrait and wedding photography, serving families and brides as it always has.

But a new brand is also in the works, devoted solely to the aforementioned commercial work. Still in the process of working out the kinks, but I’ve gotten some fantastic advice from established folks like Brandon Hill (if you don’t follow his work, please do right now by clicking the link here) and have begun brainstorming with the ever talented designer Matthew Spiel to work on a new site and logo.

So yeah. If that sounds like kind of a big (and confusing) deal… it is. 🙂 But it’s becoming very clear that this is the right direction to take right now… so instead of spending even one more second hovering on the edge of that cliff tethered in 15 different places for fear of falling…

It’s time to jump off.