Get Busy

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I don’t work with inspiration.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

I just get to work.

Chuck Close

Most non-artists think that creative people sit around waiting for inspiration to pass over them and magically move them to create a masterpiece. While some artists may be guilty of perpetuating this myth, Chuck Close’s quote is on the mark. 

One trait all successful artists share is the drive to produce work. Making something everyday is essential, and the history of art, and photography, reinforces this notion.

Many of us are put off from starting something because we are not sure of where it will lead and worry that the end result may not be what we intended at the start. While others start lots of stuff but are prevented from finishing by a pursuit of perfection.

Lou Reed, a member of the rock group The Velvet Underground which was managed by Andy Warhol tells of being reprimanded by Warhol: “Lou you are brilliant, but you are so lazy. Successful artists have to keep producing, don’t compromise, no self censorship. Put it out there with no apologies.”

As we know Warhol himself was prolific, he created new avenues in art working in every imaginable media. His studio was not called The Factory for nothing.

Reed took his advice producing 22 solo albums, 12 books of poetry, lyrics and commentary, and toured steadily until the final year of his life. Performing, giving lectures, doing poetry readings and attending book signings.

If you know nothing else about Lou Reed chances are you will know the song Walk on the Wild Side. That was on his second solo album – there were twenty more to come.

By now I hear you asking what this has to do with photography. Well, a young Stephen Shore – just 16 years old – bumped into Andy Warhol at a function and asked if he could come to The Factory to take some photographs. He spent the next three years visiting the New York studio: “I learned more there than I would at college.”

Shore credits Warhol with making him a more interesting artist, he went on to open new avenues in photography pioneering the use of colour in art photography, and was the first living photographer to be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, with a show of color photographs.

The veteran music photographer, Mick Rock was responsible for the photograph on the cover of Lou Reed’s landmark Transformer album. He was suggested to Reed by David Bowie, who produced the album, as Rock had done the photography for his own Ziggy Stardust album.

The history of photography offers many examples of photographers who worked on long-term personal projects which had no end-goal in site, but they did the work anyway.

Eugène Atget while working as an actor, walked the streets of Paris, at a time when the city was undergoing a period of renewal, making photographs of buildings and streets that would soon be gone. Today these photographs are a valuable resource and serve as a record of that city at a time of change.

A final thought – The difference between thinking about it and finishing it is just doing it.

Chuck Close was one of four artists commissioned by the City of New York to create work for the city’s subway expansion project. He created 12 large-scale Subway Portraits for the 86th Street station. Lou Reed is one of the subjects of these astonishingly detailed photo-based mosaics. Source

Described as his first selfie – a young Stephan Shore photographs himself with Andy Warhol.

It seems fitting, at this time, to show Atget’s photograph of Notre-Dame, taken in 1923.