Will you be here next week?
by Janice Nigro
I suppose being a scientist all of my life and being trained ironically to adhere to the repetition of a so-called logical stepwise process (purpose, methods, results…repeat) has made me somewhat envious of more artistic types who can sit down and write a poetic sentence about some kind of place that only exists in their imagination. Or simply draw or paint it.
I have never really been able to do that so I go diving. It is the Earth, but it seems that every bit of magic used in Harry Potter is a fact of reality underwater. I get to defy gravity for four hours a day…or a little more if the guides let us stay for as long as our air lasts (this is the one thing that breaks the spell). I fly in the current, swim with wobbegongs, sea dragons, and winged pipefish (real names not from Harry Potter), and dive guides seem to make creatures appear out of the sandy bottom by waving their hands over it. No other word for it, it’s magic.
So if you manage to take even just a technically correct photograph underwater, you have something most other photographers do not. No imagination is necessary due to the diversity of underwater subjects-just a certain amount of skill to take a photograph.
Well and of course the ability to find something to photograph.
We are intruders in a way (especially at night). Exposing macrocritters which have evolved over billions of years not to be seen, and yet we try hard to see them and then take a photograph (with a blinding flash of light probably).
The same tricks above water apply below water for making photographs of creatures more appealing and worthy of hanging on someone’s wall (seems that most want them for the bathroom) or winning a contest. But for the most part, I feel like a thief violating all copyright laws of the underwater universe when I take a photograph and try to do anything with it that will earn me something-even a few minutes of Facebook fame. I am, for all intensive purposes, stealing from nature.
What I attempt to sell (keyword being attempt) at the local farmers market nevertheless represents a long series of events. I had to learn to dive and maybe more importantly to dive well. I have travelled somewhere (maybe imposed upon friends), processed the photos, translated some part of a photo into a textile, and then I have made a physical product-a purse, card, or photograph. The final item is a piece of the underwater world (and an adventure) that you can take with you.
While I have been naturally inclined towards art shows and festivals, wondering exactly what inspires artists, why they do what they do, how they came up with their idea, I never thought I would be on the other side. I have no natural ability-I have just always found that molding something (anything really) out of clay or trying to paint relaxes me.
I work hard like any artist though to make something interesting to look at, perhaps useful, and in my case bring you a piece of nature you would never otherwise see.
My tent then has a sort of dual purpose. It is art (a type of art anyway), but you can also learn about marine life and the places where I travel to see it. It is a great prop to make easy conversation. Yet surprisingly it is still tough for me to make a sale (even a five dollar one…).
My real goal in joining the market was to meet people. And advertise myself as available for other types of work. In addition to molecular biology. (I suppose you never know of course, the world’s expert on brain tumors or CEO of some biotech company might need a fish picture on his/her way to buy potatoes.) I have managed to both make friends through the farmers market and land a paying project doing something I never did before. Suddenly something I created will be on T-shirts, bags, and a gigantic banner in the city (https://janikiink.com/portfolio-for-graphic-art-projects/).
The unexpected part of the experience is that I now have a better appreciation for what the process is for any real crafter or artist. Or any artisan (or even factory worker) working around the world. Whether or not you are interested in their work, it represents some sort of passion and at least a true effort to produce something that might represent the sum total of a variety of experiences.
I have to admit there are some types of art I have never quite understood-I am intrigued nevertheless-and these artists love what they do and they actually produce something.
It is a bit disappointing when the conversation at my tent ends with, “Will you be here next week?” (i.e. I am not going to buy anything). To sell something is one of the reasons I am there. It is, however, a bit of a lesson in the importance of environment. Trying to sell non-branded items in the LA area, and at a locale where people essentially go to purchase food, is maybe not the ideal place to introduce a type of art that at best has a niche level of appeal.
On the other hand, I am having an adventure into the art world, the opportunity for which might not have happened elsewhere. It was the same for my science in Norway-it was the wrong place for a lot of reasons for my particular project, but it was in Norway where they let me do the work.
So when the odd opportunity appears, I say take it. You never know where it might lead.
©2015 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com