Will Work For Food
I have worked as an artist for over 25 years and I have lost count as to how many times I have been offered the 'opportunity' to produce work for free.
The last few months have been particularly difficult as more and more people have been approaching me and my fellow artists to create work for free.
Firstly there is the speculative artwork scenario - where someone is interested in my style or subject and asks me to produce speculative designs or sketches for a commission. Then I hear nothing, or I might be lucky enough to get a 'no thanks' after all. So today I decided - if I am approached by someone for speculative work - there will be a charge for my time - up front. I'll let you know how that goes...
Secondly a fellow artist was approached to create a sculpture in return for free materials (that they did not want and that were not good quality). It would be a sculpture to adorn a newly refurbished space (one that had just received nearly £500K of funding). They asked and pressed the artist several times with the promise of 'publicity' and 'exposure'. Why hadn't they included a commission cost within the major bid that they had done for the building? A question that they struggled to answer.
Thirdly the barter or exchange system. This can really work. I have made work in exchange for other people's artwork. I once exchanged an artwork for the laying of a kitchen floor in my house. This works (for me) if both parties are on the same page & of the same economic standing. It feels inappropriate if a wealthy chef offers a free meal for a 'young' photographer to photo a project he was working on, which I saw recently on twitter.
The responses by other artists and photographers gave me heart (and I noticed that the original tweet from the chef has since been deleted). Perhaps it hit home that essentially an opportunity was being offered in exchange for food - a basic need however fancy the food on offer.
Times are difficult for many. It feels like we could be heading towards the 'will work for food' scenario - or for some it has already arrived.
We're out in the cold.