npr’s new “fully awake” ads: http://www.adweek.com/creativity/nprs-new-ads-promise-to-help-you-become-fully-awake-to-the-truth/
full 30 second spot:
Discussion from Facebook with my friend and activist Lane Hall regarding working with commercial entities and the dangers one may not have considered in contributing to the society of the spectacle…
I love your work – the roadside stands, the water towers, homages to the people involved in the area. I love your amazing facility with images, especially close-ups. I am happy for you with this NPR opportunity, but not sure about it. It makes me uneasy, just as the requests for OLB as advert (regardless of the affiliation) has done the same (which we haven’t pursued as a general policy)… I do respect that you must have done some soul searching to do this, and came out with it as a personal positive, so am not saying this to rain on the parade here, but it really does change your work!
me: lane, thanks so much for your feedback. interestingly, i’m at “into action” in l.a. this weekend where the feeling of being a sell out is exacerbated. one of the factors that led to my agreeing to take part in this project is the consent of all the people photographed who for the first time were reimbursed for the use of their imagery. while i see the npr project as a one off opportunity i will continue doing the work i’ve been doing for marginalized communities.
Lane: thanks for the response. I was hesitant to write what I did, because I don’t want it to seem a critique or accusation of “sell out.” Indeed, I think that such a term is ridiculously low on nuance. I am more concerned about how such a corporate sponsor repositions the work, and not just that specific work, but the work that leads up to it, and indeed, continues. Of course, repositioning happens with everything – gallery shows, museum shows, more “grassroots” sponsorships than NPR… all of those bring baggage.
Lane: But I do want to be clear in my appreciation for all that you are doing. You can’t imagine how much your work inspires me, even, and especially, in these dark times!
me: interestingly, i don’t get to have this conversation with folks and am appreciative of the opportunity. i’m sure there are others who identify me as a sell-out but who haven’t shared it. in this ad npr was looking for inclusivity and representation of communities frequently overlooked and/or whose representation in media is negative. as a morning edition listener i was happy to get the opportunity as my photography has always been about challenging mainstream narratives. whenever i get money from my art related projects i use that money to bring artists to the reservation to create art. this includes indigenous artists. having no other paying projects lined up this year this too was a factor in deciding to do the ad as it’ll allow me to continue the painted desert project. and as i mentioned before it helps that the people photographed were into it.
Lane: Great to hear about the feedback loop regarding funding going back into community projects.
NPR is a strange one…. it seems to have gotten more and more corporate and “let’s hear both sides” as a kind of false narrative of balance, yet at times it is exceptional. It is especially important in non urban communities (used to keep me sane as a carpenter working in non-urban areas). Have you thought of trying to do fundraisers that would go directly into Painted Desert Project Funds for “scholarships” to bring in artists? I just followed Radical Mycology’s funding to start a school (online) in Portland… man, they did really well… made their goal (65k) in three days, ended with twice that!
me: i wish i had the time to pursue seeking nonprofit status and to do fundraising and grants. as a one person operation working a 40 hour a week job whose primary passion is just getting work up i can’t do it all. sadly, i’ll have more time to pursue this once i retire but i’lm no longer be living on the reservation. with regard to the ad, i wish it’d been for “democracy now” or “free speech tv” but alas, it was npr. i guess the question is if i were given the opportunity to do this again, would i? at this point i don’t know.