The Karmic Corollary of Purchasing Photographs

Gallery Exhibition, Photographs from my book Four & Twenty Photographs: Stories from Behind the Lens, Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian
Gallery Exhibition, Photographs from my book Four & Twenty Photographs: Stories from Behind the Lens, Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

"When buying from an artist/maker you’re buying more than just an object/painting. You are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experimentation.  You are buying days, weeks and months of frustration and moments of pure joy. You aren’t just buying a thing. You are buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a moment of someone’s life . . ." —Rebekah Joy Plett, Artist

I am always grateful when someone purchases an original photograph of mine. If someone falls in love with an image that I made and is willing to lay down real money in order to take it home, it is an affirmation of my work. These customers are my supporters and my angels.

In my early days when print sales were few and far between, I was even more grateful when someone came along and purchased a print. I needed the affirmation even more in those days, and the sale proved to me that my work had value beyond the joy I experienced when I created it. It affirmed that what I had to say through the lens resonated with others.

I have always had a compelling urge to give back. I feel a strong need to show gratitude for the great gifts that have come my way, many of them through my work as a photographer. I am fortunate to be able to sell original photographic prints of my work. So I make it a practice to purchase at least one original photograph every year—an image that I fall in love with. I believe there may be a kind of karmic corollary between selling one’s work and purchasing the work of others. And so I am committed to paying it forward, purchasing another photographer’s work in order to pass along the good energy that selling a print creates for the artist.

As photographers, I believe, we must study the work of past and present photographers—our predecessors, our colleagues, and our students. I spend time looking at thousands and thousands of photographs every year, pictures made by my students and mentees and some by photographers looking for feedback on their work. Some I connect with. Some I don’t. Some I fall in love with. And every once and a while one will linger long in my memory and refuse to leave. And if circumstances allow, I purchase the photograph so that I may study it and learn why it beguiled me in the first place.

Just before Christmas, I purchased a wonderful portrait of Ansel Adams by California photographer Martha Casanave. I love the look on ol’ Ansel’s face as he turns toward Ms. Casanave’s camera. The image takes me back to the transformative workshop I attended with the great photographer many years ago. As I look at the photograph I can imagine him turning to the group and saying once again, “now place that tree trunk over there on Zone III . . . .”

It’s a powerful reason to purchase a photograph.

Ansel Adams by Martha Casanave
Ansel Adams by Martha Casanave