Tag Archives: death

My Photographic Archives- What to Do With Them? (Part 4)

Because I’ve recently been thinking and writing a lot about what happens to artwork when an artist dies (don’t worry, I’m perfectly healthy), I’ve been researching why artwork gets archived, how it gets organized, recorded and stored, and things to think about when creating a plan for one’s archives.

Finding solid helpful information was challenging at first. It wasn’t until I started using search terms like “estate planning for visual artists” that I began finding items that I felt could usefully guide me towards finding answers to my questions.

What follows are a few of the best sources I could find:

Etched in Memory: Legacy Planning for Artists (An online resource that has a ton of resources listed on this topic.)

A Visual Artist’s Guide to Estate Planning

Artists’ Studio Archives website (This has a great page of handouts from “how to” workshops that they have offered.)

Artist’s Estates: Reputations in Trust (This is a book that outlines what happened to a number of 20th C. artists’ works after they died.)

Estate Planning Guide and Career Documentation Workbook (from the Joan Mitchell Foundation- both were updated in Feb. 2015)

After reading a number of the above items, I’ll be honest- it’s enough to make your head explode, even for someone like me who is crazily detail-oriented. I now realize that, for artists, there are two major things to think about when it comes to estate planning: 1. your artwork, and 2. everything else. Holy crap! At least I’ve got a fairly up-to-date inventory of my artwork, so that’s a start.

Be that as it may, I’m very clear that I do NOT want to burden my family with having to figure out what to do with my artwork once I am gone. Given that, I have to get my act together in order to create a plan that relieves them of that task. I’m glad to now have some guidance for doing that.

Thank You, Prince

Yet another genius of popular music has died. The fact that Prince and David Bowie died within months of each other does not feel random to me. Two people who lived and breathed their art, always seeking for different ways to express themselves, both of whom marched to their own beat and who died far too young.

Photograph by Planton Antoniou

Photograph by Planton Antoniou

The New Yorker magazine published an article that outlined some of the many reasons for why Prince was so respected by his peers and fans alike.

And here is an excerpt from an interview Prince did with Jim Walsh from the Minneapolis Post:

“I am music. I feel music. When I walk around, I hear brand new things. You’re almost cursed. You’re not even (its maker), you’re just there to bring it forth. You know, ‘Can’t I go to sleep?’ No. You can’t. But OK, now you can. And you go to sleep, and you don’t hear it, and then you’re lonely. No one wants to be on Earth alone.”

 He spoke for all artists with those words.

Walsh wrote, “…that’s what we mourn today — the loss of an eternal seeker, which all great artists are at heart.” Our world is left less colorful, less vibrant, and diminished by his passing.

Thank you, Prince, for all the gifts you gave us.

My Photographic Archives- What To Do With Them? (Part 1)

I have no good answer for the question posed in the title of this post. But I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately.

The first time I ever stopped to think about what to do with one’s photographic archives was back in 1990. I blogged about this story back in 2013, but I want to return to it now, as it is a good lead-in to upcoming posts that I will write about concerning this topic.

A couple of days after moving into our house, I saw a moving van parked across the street. Two men were taking out all the furniture from a house whose elderly owner had died a few weeks before. Her relatives had sold the entire contents of the house to an estate buyer, and they had come to empty it out.

Among the items lined up for removal was what I recognized as a standing slide file cabinet. Because I was badly in need of one at that point in time, I went across the street to take a closer look. I saw that each drawer was labeled with the locations and dates of what clearly had been trips the deceased had taken. “Nepal, 1972”, “California, 1958”, “Canada, 1966”. I pulled open one of the drawers, and there they were, slide after slide after slide of this woman’s life in pictures. I realized with a start that no one wanted them, that they were going to be thrown away, as if those trips and that woman’s life had never happened. There was an entire life’s history there, and it was going to be tossed. The realization made me feel awful.

The movers asked me if I wanted the cabinet, telling me to just make an offer and I could have it, as it would be one less thing for them to move. But I couldn’t.

I knew that if I bought it, I would be the one to throw away those slides, and even if I filled it up and used it for years, the memory of her slides and her forgotten life would linger on. And so would the guilt I would feel.

I know that my potential sense of guilt wasn’t rational. But that incident started me thinking about how we deal (or don’t) with the photographic records of our lives. What do I want to save for future generations- my artwork, my family photos, both? Will future generations even care? Should my records be saved in print or digitally? Who archives them? Where will they be housed?

I’m working on the answers to these questions because I want to consciously decide what happens to my own archive of creative work. I want to make sure that it will live on in some fashion. And I don’t want my printed photographs and hard drives out on the curb one day, waiting for the trash collector, just because I couldn’t make a decision about what to do with them.

All artists are faced with this question, and all of us answer it in different ways. But it is important to come up with some kind of answer, if we don’t want to see our work disappear from the face of the earth at the same time that we do.