Art in the Professions
What if your work doesn't involve art?
I am a geek by trade, part of a Systems Test group at Xerox. My work does not directly involve photography in the least. However, since 2010 I have maintained a personal gallery in a large area of wall space in our building, as well as having photographs scattered about elsewhere.
It came about like this. I am a regular exhibitor at the Image City Photography Gallery in Rochester, NY. I participated in their June 2010 show www.imagecityphotographygaller…
with a 60th Birthday(!) Show in their East Gallery. At the end of the show I took down my photographs and packed them away in boxes. Meanwhile, our area of Building 111 had just finished a major renovation project and had all sorts of beautiful white walls with no generic artwork. I wrote a note to our group administrator suggesting that I could hang my photos in a particularly inviting section of wall space near my cube. "How much are you proposing this would cost us?" "Zero," replied I. "Do it," said she. Five years and several updates later, it's still there.
These were part of the first set. Welta Weltur c1945
I certainly have had fun with the project, and I'd like to think my photography makes a significant contribution to the group morale and the general quality of life in the workplace. There are, however, significant perils involved in such a project if one is not careful about how one goes about it. There are conflict of interest traps all around. One could easily get oneself fired if one did not proceed with discretion.
First and foremost, while having a gallery at work is great fun and good for group morale and all that, it is not what I am paid to do. Xerox does not pay me a reasonably decent salary to be a gallery curator; I am paid to do quality assurance work and to do it well. I will check things over and straighten photos as I walk through, but gallery change-outs are done after hours. Similarly with sales; Xerox does not want me using their wall space to advertise my business. I will happily sell a framed print if someone asks, but the price is "materials cost plus a little bit to make sure I don't actually lose money in the transaction." I don't advertise at work or post prices. Be honest and up front with your boss and your colleagues. Play it cool. You are doing this for fun. Keep it that way.
Other thoughts and guidelines.
- Get permission before claiming that lovely wall space. As soon as I hung my photographs I got questions. "How come you get to do this?" It would have been awkward to say the least if I had not cleared it ahead of time. As it was, I could reply, "Go for it. Find a convenient chunk of wall, send Kathy a note, and strut your stuff." The response to that was generally on the order of "Cool".
- Play by the rules with security. If a camera clearance is required for carrying or using a camera on premises, get one. Be aware that for camera clearance purposes, network connected smartphone cameras scare people who are concerned about security but not typically the people who write and interpret the camera policy. Nobody gets a camera clearance for a cellphone. I need one for my Yashica-D. Don't worry about it. Get the camera clearance if you plan to have a "real" camera on premises. In my case, folks are quite used to seeing me hauling a camera in and out and having it along on group outings. Getting my camera clearance renewed is an annual ritual. The security director has my photos hanging in her office. Play by the rules.
- Be professional. Keep you gallery clean. Don't display anything that you wouldn't display in an established gallery. Snapshots are fine in your cube, but not on company wall space. Keep it work safe. This is not the place for nude photography or scantily-clad models, no matter how tastefully and beautifully done. Whatever your ethnicity, don't display work that will cause offense for your co-workers. Err on the side of kindness and discretion. Respect other people.
- Act like a adult. Be known first as a good worker, secondly as an artist. Don't try this until you have been around long enough to establish a track record as a professional in your primary field. Take time to understand the workplace culture. What is welcome in one place may not be welcome in another, even within the same company.
- Start small. Hanging you work in and around your own cube or workspace is much less fraught with peril.
- Keep it low key. Be professional. Have fun. I certainly have.