How do you sell a poisoned turkey to wannabe photographers for $30 per month? If you’re The Arcanum, you style yourself a “magical academy of artistic mastery” and call it a day.
The Arcanum: Art Photography’s Sad Future
Okay, so there’s more to it than that. Four whole steps, people!
- Find an energetic soundtrack that will make people get excited about a bunch of gearheads salivating over their tripods and Professional Cameras in a field somewhere.
- Add some cool graphics and make a quasi-ballsy statement about universities being broken.
- Throw in ample product placement for Google and Apple smart devices.
- Finally round it all out with obscure terms like “neo-shaman” and a system of “levels” and “spheres” not unlike Scientology.
And if any of that isn’t enough to lure ‘em in, call yourself Hogwarts.
There is so much stupidity going on here, that I’m choking on my own rage.
It’s a great business model, sure. It’s viral marketing in real life, playing to the worst common denominator who has no creativity and needs to be prompted before anything even remotely original worms its way into his or her under-functioning cerebral cortex.
Learn from Masters
The Arcanum’s whole shebang is upheld by the statement that the master-apprentice relationship is ancient and time-honored. And that’s true. During the Italian Renaissance, would-be painters imitated the work of the masters and, in doing so, found their own style.
The propaganda for the Arcanum clearly wants this idea to be something you associate with a “master” wearing Google glasses or some other image-sharing device while an “apprentice” follows along…and does what exactly? We’re not quite sure.
If you want to know how “master photographers” think, post your photos to just about any critique forum and watch them swoop in like buzzards. If it’s not the focus, it’s the bokeh. If it’s not that, it’s the lighting. Or the contrast. Or the crop. Or the fact that it’s not a full-body portrait. Or the fact that it is a full-body portrait. You get the idea.
Referenced in the promotional Youtube video is the concept that this magical academy is somehow not “one size fits all” because the “masters” pick you. Never mind that you’ve never heard of said masters, or that their work might not seem overly creative or artistic. Because it’s all about spheres and levels, folks.
Spheres and Levels
I thought Gearheads were a dead end in the evolution of photography, but apparently I’m wrong. Since you’ve only got a matter of days to brag about your cutting-edge camera before it is rendered obsolete, now you can talk about spheres and levels.
With Arcanum, there are three spheres, and ten levels in each sphere. As you progress from one level to the next (the gamer-oriented term “leveling up” is used), you are somehow imbued with New Powers of Photography. People will call other people things like “warlock” and “neo-shaman” (words actually used to sell Arcanum to people). Maybe people will even refer to themselves in such a manner:
I am a Sphere 2 Level 9 Masterchef of Photography, with +3 Bokeh and +1 Artistic Sight of the Unseeing. Now roll three twenty-sided dice!
My buddy Justin, who is a Level 19 Jedi in Boston.
This service is clearly aimed at a large and growing community of photographers: the wannabes.
I use the term wannabes not in reference to gear or learning, but simply in regard to photographers who are too busy wanting to be a certain kind of photographer to actually go out and just become it.
I don’t care what you photograph with – an iPhone, a mirrorless camera, or a DSLR. Hell, even break out the 35mm. And while I’m a staunch advocate of self-taught photography, there is admittedly a lot to be gained from classes and workshops.
Thinking for yourself will help you take more artistic photographs.
But what can an Arcanum photographer teach you about art? Man Ray argued that multiple photographers taking pictures of the same subject would produce varying images. What constitutes art in photography isn’t so much about technique, as it is about vision.
Other art forms – like painting, pottery, sketching, sculpting – take time and require an individual to master certain techniques. The technique physically shapes the vision.
Photography as art requires technique in a similar manner. It helps to expedite the vision, and influences the way it is perceived. But because art photography is as much about capturing as it is about creating, vision must precede it.
Old White Guy Photography
There’s an idea in vogue right now, called “old white guy photography.” What is old white guy photography? Old white guy photography is any kind of photography where you travel around and do the same shit someone else already did before you, only you do it worse.
Ansel who? No, I photographed this my Nikanon D24,000,000 and a 62mm f/0.78 ABCDEFG lens.
The Arcanum is old white guy photography marketed to a hip, tech-friendly consumer base who will shell out money and time, and buy into a nonexistent school for the benefit of mercurial titles.
Every discipline in the magical academy is pretty much old white guy photography. Landscape, portrait, fashion, wedding, product, and general photography make this sucker a white-out. There is no art in these kinds of photography. They are professions – that many people aspire to.
And for a fee of $30 per month, you too can see old white guys walking around taking photographs of fields or pagodas or skydivers or Times Square.
True story: I live in the City of New York, and there’s more to it than Times Square.
Now I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking, Yeah, but there are women and people of color listed as masters.
Despite the name, old white guy photography does not know age or race. It is a disease of the mind and it must be quashed. As a white guy myself (getting older), I freely admit this.
Originality is the source of all good art. Sometimes it’s stolen originality, but it is still original. Not everyone is doing it, and the person who produced it probably didn’t get the concept from plodding around in another artist’s shadow.
Probably. Maybe. Who knows.
A Little Advice
My best ideas for photographs come from outside of photography. I study art history, read books, explore new neighborhoods, and talk to strangers. But that’s just me. Maybe you’ll get something from following a Level 9 Hufflepuff in Conrad, Montana.
I like drugs and I like painters, so I photographed this painter doing some drugs. It was a win-win.
I myself am nothing special. I’ve won some contests, sold some work, and I’ve shown my images here in New York City. I’ve been doing this for several years and my output still sucks. I have many more decades before anyone is going to look at my material with any real appreciation – not because I’m ahead of my time, but because I’m still kind of young and I still suck at photography. The good news is, if you buckle down and force yourself to shoot, day after day, and think about why you shoot – what kinds of things interest you and what kinds of art interest you – you can become a more artistic photographer.
Take my word for it – I’m a Level 274 Gandalf from NYC.