People Who Minimize Hobbyists and Exploit Professional Artists

©2016 Trudy | Drift Sojourn

©2016 Trudy | Drift Sojourn

In the most basic sense of the term, "hobby" usually corresponds to personal interests/activities that a person engages in for enjoyment and without full-time compensation. Work usually corresponds to labor that a person engages in—regardless of whether or not it is "enjoyed"—for compensation. This does not mean that hobbies do not involve work in the general sense; it takes work to learn to cook as a hobby; it takes work to learn how to do manicures as a hobby; reading involves time and intellectual work as a hobby, etc. In terms of photography and writing, many people consider "professionals" to be people who make a living doing these arts, regardless of their actual skill level. This is why some "hobbyist" photographers actually create superior photographs to "professional" ones.  At the same time, people expect "professional" to speak to a certain level of skill as well. 

The line between "hobbyist" and "professional" gets interesting when some people consistently tell hobbyists to become professionals since they are "so good at it," yet many of these same people do not want to pay existing professionals for their professional work. It is so interesting to me how people downplay hobbies in the same fields as ones that they do not want to pay professionals for. Do such people want hobbyists to reach what they think is their full potential, or are they simply unable to value hobbyists' art at the level at which they create it? The latter is something that I discussed in Respect and Accept Art In The Format The Artist Makes It In. Do such people really respect the professionals that they want such hobbyists to become when they simultaneously think it is unreasonable to have to pay existing professionals in the same fields, but still want their services and/or products? 

I tweeted about this before:

Something that I have learned as an artist—one who is both a hobbyist (in some arts) and a professional artist (in other arts) who earns income from art, as well as one who ran a full-time business before as a professional artist—is to watch who really supports my art versus who really likes the appearance of speaking to an artist/about art. For example, there are people who for ten years—and I am not being hyperbolic, I literally mean since 2006—have gone on and on about wanting a photoshoot with me. This is their version of "small talk" because they do not know how to engage with me without some measure of unidirectional consumption. Nevermind that I have not created consumer photography such as portraiture and event photography since 2012. Or that I even changed my brand name, my portfolio and my work. To these people, vaguely mentioning the free photoshoot that they want to siphon from me is "connecting." However, someone who is actually interested in my art will know: what I actually write about; what my URLs are; what I actually photograph; the things that I am creating (if I mention them); what I have planned next (if I mention them). I mean, I know this about my favorite indie artists.

Lately (and honestly, always) I have been dealing with 2 kinds of fairly awful people who mistakenly think that they are "complimentary," "kind" and "helpful." The first type of people are the kind who expect all of my labor to be free, yet theirs is not. They make free labor demands while they simultaneously ignore the type of work that I actually do. They claim to be "fans" yet they do not really engage any of my work, while they still demand even more from me. The second type of people are ones who offer unsolicited "advice" on my work yet have no idea what work I do at all. They do not care. Their paternalism leaves little room for logic. They expect my hobbies (i.e. cooking, makeup) to be professional work in order to matter, yet speak down to me about my professional work (i.e. photography, writing) as if their unsolicited advice in fields that they have zero experience in should be centered above what I already know and do, work that they pay very little attention to anyway. 

Now, do these people "owe" me the role of reader, customer, client, project partner, or "pupil" (people weaponize "learning" as a way to exploit my labor or silence me altogether, but I digress) or other roles that infer a financial transaction at times? Of course not. But then this would also mean that they would have to stop plagiarizing my work, stop copyright infringing my photographs, stop binging on my work to vomit it all back up (without citation) on social media (to make themselves look "smart" and gain attention/followers) while at the same time harassing me over cash.me or Paypal buttons on my work, stop the DM/emails/tweets requesting free labor on a daily basis, and stop reducing my work down to whatever tools I use, as if an iMac writes the essays and a camera makes the photographs themselves. Stop engaging me in an exploitative manner. Maybe stop engaging me altogether, to be honest, if the only engagement they know is harm. If we in fact owe each other nothing at all, then the demands on their end would need to stop. My demands, however, are about my boundaries, autonomy and humanity; these are not "negotiable." The kind of people who do not take hobbyists seriously but will also not pay professionals are not "fans" (I do not even like the "celebrity"/"fan" binary for non-famous creators who use social media simply to work to survive). They are not supporters. They most definitely are not the type of people I ever want to work for or with. A hobbyist does not have to be a professional for their art to matter and a professional does not have to work for free.