Monday, March 24, 2008

It Could Happen to You ( or Me)...

Happy belated Easter to everyone.
On most days, my morning begins by awakening around 5:30-6:00 am, making coffee and then grabbing my laptop to check email and then a quick browse around the net to read my favorite forums & blogs before showering and heading off to the studio to take care of business. (Some of my favorite photography related blogs and forums are listed & linked in a previous post found below.)
One of the first blogs I check on a daily basis is Rob Haggert's "A Photo Editor" blog:  
This morning's entry hit me like a kick in the teeth. Rob blogs about a photographer who's career I have followed and who's images I have admired ever since I first read about him in PDN back in the early 90's, Chip Simons:
In that PDN article, Chip, along with Mark Seliger (now chief staff photographer at Rolling Stone) and Karen Kuehn: were three up and coming New York photographers who were making a big splash at the time. We all know were Mark ended up and how well he has done within the industry. As mush as I love the work of all three of these individuals, it was Chip and the wacky, colorful playful images he was making that really caught my attention. Chip became known originally for making weird, POV, fish-eye portraits of dogs and other animals, usually lit by flashes gelled with psychedelic colors. Chip also used other unconventional lighting tools which included a small arsenal of gelled penlights... and almost always with a fish-eye perspective. In that PDN article was a hallucinogenic portrait by Chip of another one of my photo heros, Guy Bourdin. 
Shortly after that article in PDN appeared, it seemed that Chip's work was everywhere. His stuff was fresh, playful, often less than flattering to the subject, but eye-catching nonetheless. His style has been copied by numerous admirers ever since. Chip apparently made his bones in NYC, enjoying a busy and profitable career... for a only a while as it turns out.
Feeling a need for space and with a perception that his value and place within the industry was secured, Chip packed up and fled the city for a farm in New Mexico.  For a while, he continued to be in demand, continued to expand his visual vocabulary and continued to produce new styles of work. From what I gather from Chip's own statements in several articles & interviews published by and about him in recent years is that he became complacent, neglected to market himself with any consistency. Marital & financial troubles ensued, eventually leading to a nasty divorce and an empty bank account. 
For numerous reasons, not the least of them being his physical distance from art buyers in NYC where his original market was developed, Chip has decided to abandon the rural life and head back to New York to start again from scratch. His comments in interviews these days are tinged with a bitterness and a degree of self-pity for the predicament he now finds him self in. Still, his comments are brutally frank & honest, serving as a cautionary tale to all of us who attempt the delicate balance of juggling career vs. lifestyle issues that affect all of us residing outside of the major marketplaces of our industry.
The story of Chip Simons isn't finished yet. I fully expect that we'll be hearing from him again, that he will successfully recreate himself and will again rise up within the ranks. Reading his tale this early morning while still suffering from caffeine deficiency left me depressed. By the time I made the 30 minute drive from home to my studio, I was inspired and motivated to work hard for as many more years as I possibly can, to step up my marketing and self-promotion efforts and to always try to find new and fresh ways to keep telling the same stories in photographs.

I've never met Chip. Just the same... he has been an inspiration to me over the years. I wish him the best of luck in re-establishing his career and repairing his psyche.

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