Last month, I mentioned experiencing burnout and knowing it would take several weeks, if not longer to feel back on track. I do not quite feel that way yet because I know this is a longitudinal problem. The bottom line, the very bottom line, is that I use Twitter to promote my work in order to earn income to survive as a non-famous yet hypervisible person (aka zero resources and minimal support, but overly seen and consumed, yet by people not interested in engaging, supporting, and/or buying my actual art). However, using my largest account on Twitter has meant years of dealing with abuse, threats, plagiarism (of all of my work, not just tweets from that account), and I am tired. This is really the bottom line. It is very stressful and something that I discuss quite often and discussed since Gradient Lair days and before that, back as a portrait/event photographer etc.
Dealing with organized and disorganized short-term and long-term targeted abuse campaigns has done irrevocable damage to my mental and physical health, especially over the last five years. This is something that I cannot explain here in a single paragraph; I have literal years of writing on online abuse. While my smaller social media accounts on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are usually okay (unlike my hypervisible Twitter or Tumblr accounts), those accounts are not always smooth sailing since obsessive yet unsupportive people target those accounts at times with their awful behavior and interactions. Those accounts have smaller audiences which has pros and cons, just as my personal Twitter/Gradient Lair have/had massive audiences, which has mainly cons. (I loathe Facebook and a few other unmentioned platforms; I have tons of experience with almost every major social media platform; this is not my first time at the rodeo; trust.)
In my monthly Artists Make Art posts (a series that I started in 2015 when I first launched this central site to discuss my years of multi-art multi-genre work), I discuss some of what I photographed, wrote, created and critiqued etc. in that same month. Below is some of what I created in May. I honestly am surprised that I got anything done at all because it was such a difficult month health-wise.
Though I closed the live blog part of Gradient Lair in late 2015, 2,000+ new Twitter followers joined @GradientLair since. This means that I have over 12.3K Twitter followers and over 20K Gradient Lair blog subscribers, or people who even years later still engage what I published there. I decided to start using the Twitter account again to share #classicGradientLair posts (and a few other posts). The former is some of my writing that may not be included in future anthologies, but writing that is meaningful to me still. I did some more brainstorming for the subject-specific anthologies that are in progress, though I have taken some mental health breaks along the way as some of the content is very heavy to revisit. It is quite an undertaking but at the same time, I kind of want to complete them and then...well, close this chapter of my life.
I am interested in the writing that I do now (i.e. on art, film reviews, food etc.) and my visual art as a long-time photographer. I kind of want to leave some of the types of writing that I did on Gradient Lair behind. It is important to me and has impact lives around the globe. It is used everywhere and usually without citation though. These last five years of this project have been some of the most painful years of my adult life. And while I am proud of what I accomplished with it, I am also tired. I want the abuse and the plagiarism to be behind me, though it never will; the work I created there is essentially marked for theft ad perpetuum because some of it is literally framework development of things simply not articulated prior. The anthologies will symbolize something permanent from this work but also be kind of a door I want to close and move on. I will not have the luxury of moving on completely, because of how exploitatively people engage my work. But hopefully that type of exploitation will reduce with published anthologies that centralize that content beyond its origin URL.
With the help of a designer and tech buddy, I completed all of the design changes (for iMac/desktop, iPhone/smartphone and iPad/tablet) for Drift Sojourn and designed the new logo for Drift Sojourn myself. I also changed the tagline from "photographs, passion, prose, purpose" to "colour, cuisine, culture" and I explained this change on the blog. I created 3 photograph collages of my work that reflect this change; this is also on the blog and in my portfolio. I am still working on portfolio updates, however.
I published some new posts to Drift Sojourn blog, the first of 2017, which include: Drift Sojourn - New Logo In 2017, 8 Food Photographs Created With A Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, My Current Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, 8 Of My Favorite Food Photographs From Spring and a long read, 5 Uncool and 5 Very Cool Replies I Get After I Publish Photographs.
I did post new photographs on my Instagram profile and I shared a wine cork photograph series on Twitter, which Canon (the primary brand of gear that I use) replied to, as I used one of their lenses to create the series.
As I mentioned in previous Artists Make Art posts, I use Snapchat (user name: thetrudz) to share what I am working on, including my writing, to post my cooking and baking experiments as a newbie cook, to discuss my work as a professional photographer, and just for fun personal use.
Two of my previous three photography eBooks—Photography Projects For Practice and Portfolios and Free or Frugal: Learning and Creating Photography On A Budget—are available for purchase in Publications and on an eBook link on Drift Sojourn itself. Additionally, an educational publication, 300 Photography Resources, and my 2 sets of iPhone wallpapers "Healthy Eats" and "Sweet Eats" are available in Publications as free downloads, but tips are appreciated. My upcoming fourth photography eBook is still in progress. Additionally, I am working on 2 more sets of iPhone wallpapers that I will release sometime this year.
I published the following on Cinemacked blog in May: 3 New To Netflix Selections - May 2017 and 4 Awesome Documentaries About Creative Women. I keep an updated TweetDeck collection of all of my essays and other posts from Cinemacked blog once I tweet them, for easy access from Twitter. I did not publish any new film reviews on the blog in May, but on @Cinemacked, in addition to the general media news retweets and original opinions/critiques that I share (i.e. a critique of the notion of a profit-focused "raceless" Hollywood), I did a television show review of Taken on NBC, a live tweet of MET Gala and I live tweeted several of my favorite television shows which include The Flash, Arrow, Designated Survivor and Lucifer. I also live tweeted a new addition to my TV Roster, The Crown on Netflix. I did update my TV Roster for the summer and shared it on Twitter.
Platypus Press published an interview that I completed with them for their "The Wilds" series on their Wildness blog, where they ask five interesting questions and the interviewee answers. It will be published in early June (and I will add the links once available). The questions they asked me include: the last thing that made me smile; a secret; the last thing I wrote; favorite city; what would I put in a time capsule. Two excerpts from my interview:
Music has always been everything to me. Thus, going back to vinyl feels like a reconnection with my childhood, with my late mom and with music itself, in a new way but in ultimately an old, familiar, and comfortable way.
I would want the future world to know that even amidst the absolute worst times in life, ordinary people have extraordinary thoughts and contain multitudes of both real pain and true beauty.
As I mentioned earlier this year, I created a new personal Instagram profile; the new personal one is instagram.com/thetrudz, and for my work it is instagram.com/driftsojourn. I like having the former to share photographs of myself and things I love outside of my photography work with Drift Sojourn, but still reflects my skills and other interests as a photographer/creator.
I published the following to Twitter Moments: Denying People Joy Is NOT Radical. I published Twitter threads on topics that matter to me including: Beyoncé's and Solange's impact on photography, HBCUs, PWIs and economics, and yet another thread on media consumption versus actual activism. Additionally, I am still slowly working on 2 short publications (eBooks; projects outside of the Gradient Lair anthology work and my photography eBooks) that I originally started in 2016, which I mentioned in previous Artists Make Art posts.
I started writing an essay on the role of art in society, but I did not publish it to the blog. I am currently deciding whether I want to or save it to be a part of another project/publication.
I have been talking to artists who use social media even more strategically than I do (I mean, if you knew what I have to do to make it usable at all; whew) and manage to make a living without using Twitter at all. In fairness, they were building other platforms during the years I was mainly on Twitter. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, right? If I could do it all over again, I would not have deleted Instagram back when Facebook bought it, to have to slowly rebuild it now. A lot of photographers built their presence there and basically ignore Twitter. They seem to enjoy that more. Facebook is a "no" for me because I did use it back in my portraiture/event photography days but I got burned out. Facebook has many of the same problems that Twitter has anyway.
I get to this point where I hit the same brick wall over and over. The same problems. The same impasse, ultimately. I love my work itself. While I do not believe in "dream jobs," I have waited all of my adult life to be able to do work that I enjoy, work that is challenging, work that is creative. I do now. But loving my work (being an artist) and loathing the context it has to occur in (extremely abusive and exploitative social media spaces that are infinitely worse than any corporate job office) is a resistant impasse. In the latter, corporate, at least the abuse had limits because of the physical environment, labor laws people had to somewhat abide by and workday time constraints. Social media, however, obliterates all of this. Each month I try to figure out another way and hopefully after more conversations with artists who understand this, as there will be so few who do, I will come up with a plan that works. I have to. My well-being and survival depend on it.