This week’s Questions with an Educator features, Patti Hallock.
Patti is a Colorado-based fine art photographer, as well as a professor of photography at the University of Colorado at Denver. Work from her project, “The West is Here,” was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, CO. Not only does she excel in photography, but she has also developed an app for artists. Here, Patti details what this app is used for, what led her to the photography industry in the first place, and the most important piece of advice she gives her students.
We asked: Please describe your path to the photography industry. What are a few of the things you did to get your business off the ground?
Patti said: I took a very indirect route to the photography industry. I have always loved making pictures. After high school, I worked in the technology industry. I was a desktop support engineer, wrote some code and then moved into networking and telecom management. That meant I installed and managed phone systems for a tech company during the 1990’s tech boom. This was also during a period where knowledge of technology, not necessarily a degree, was all you needed to be successful. The late 1990’s also brought the end of the dot-com bubble, and after the crash, it seemed like a great time to finally finish my undergraduate degree.
I studied photography during my undergraduate and graduate degrees, the most impractical choice given my experience, but I was burned out! I had some success showing my photographs early on and have had commercial gallery representation since 2003. When starting my career, I’d say that applying to shows, going to SPE, meeting other artists around the country, and going to portfolio reviews were the most valuable things I did when I was getting started.
We asked: Please describe the app that you are developing. What gave you this idea?
Patti said: I will answer your second question first. While I was an undergraduate studying photography, I applied to many juried shows. I started out keeping track of submissions, rejections and accepted shows on paper, in manila folders in a plastic file container. Over time, and after building up an archive of physical prints, it became more difficult to track my work using spreadsheets and other methods. Adding teaching activities to my career made tracking even more complicated. After several inquiries into my work were made, either by my gallery or a collector that I didn’t know the answer to, I decided I must become better organized.
I searched for applications to help and tried several of them. The problem was, none of the options were actually designed for photographic artists, so the features were very general and didn’t suit my needs. This is where my technology came to the rescue. I designed an application for me, students, and fine art photography colleagues. After much research, collaboration and time developing the product, PhotoWorkflo was born.
PhotoWorkflo is designed to help artists keep track of the photographs they are promoting. It’s easy to upload images via the web or by using the PhotoWorkflo for Adobe Lightroom Classic plugin. The application keeps track of an artist’s important documents and you can connect them to particular activities you participate in like juried shows, residencies or classes you are teaching.
Photoworkflo was also built to keep track of individual prints and editions. The app makes it easy to manage the details of printing, matting, framing, locations (“where’s my stuff?”). Activities is the place to record submissions to shows and create submission packets. You can track anything you do related to your art career. For example, you can record residencies you apply to, exhibitions you are invited to, grant applications, or licenses you create for your images. Finally, we have an option for publishing collections of work you choose on your Public Artist Profile page which is searchable by image keywords. The application has been out of beta for two months now and we are working to build even more features. In the meantime, It’s been fantastic to have all of my art related data in one place that is accessible wherever I am.
We asked: What is your “why” in photography? Why do you keep going?
Patti said: I started making photographs because I was drawn to the photograph as a way of expression. Sometimes there are things that emerge in my photographs that are not easy to express with words. I often don’t even realize something is on my mind until I notice it in my pictures. I also really enjoy projects that require research into concepts and histories that I find are visually evidenced all around us, but that we don’t pay attention to ordinarily. I’m innately curious about the world and always seeking to make connections between ideas, and photography is the only way I know how to do that.
I keep going because of the happiness that photography brings to my life. I’ve worked hard to build this life for myself. The funny thing to me about your question is the fact that I’m someone that has been asking “why” my whole life. I have cassette tape recordings of myself as a five-year-old. In those tapes, I seemed to answer everything that was said to me with that question. I’m sure that annoyed the adults around me then, but all these years later, I’m still searching for the answer through the lens of my camera.
We asked: What is the most important piece of advice you share with your students? Why is this particular advice invaluable?
Patti said: I think an important piece of advice that I give to my students is that they need to participate in organizations like SPE or ASMP. Being a part of a community is one of the most important driving forces to help sustain an art career over a long period of time. It’s difficult to make work in a bubble. Most of us need external stimulation and learning, camaraderie and support to keep being an artist.
We asked: What is the biggest obstacle you expect many of your students will face in the industry?
Patti said: I expect that one of the biggest obstacles that students will face is the challenge of wearing many hats. They need to be business people and marketing people as well as artists. Because technology has sped up our culture, the environment for professional photographers and artists changes more rapidly. Students need to be willing to constantly update their knowledge and skills to stay relevant and be willing to be savvy marketers of their work. I worry, because this doesn’t come naturally to all personalities and many are reluctant to be business focused because they have a misguided idea that it will dilute their work.
Whether artist or commercial photographer, business know-how is necessary to survive. I worry because we haven’t done well in higher education photography programs to teach these skills to our students. The most recent State of Photographic Education survey revealed this fact. I wrote a blog post about it but I’m also working to highlight programs that are teaching business and entrepreneurship to photography students. This is the best way that higher education programs in photography can ensure that students are prepared to navigate the business of being a photographer once they graduate.
Find more of Patti’s work on her website.