Curation

It’s a great day that starts with a Hipstamatic shot of a gum-wrapper tree. I wish I could find the Hipstamatic shot of a pot of boiling water I received around the same time.

P1xels is the only curated iphonic art site on the web. In the very early days of the site, I probably published three-quarters of the images that came in. Today, the number is probably around one-quarter of the submissions. I can’t offer a reason for why that is so. At least a reason that would make sense to both you and me.

From the beginning, I have believed that we are working in a new medium and to gain entry into the art world, we must produce work of a caliber that will stand by timeless and classic works of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

That means hard work and, here at P1xels, the pain of rejection. That means creating work that will stand up to say, Andy Warhol or Matisse or, if you consider yourself a “mobile photographer,” Cindy Sherman or Henri Cartier-Bresson or Alfred Stieglitz. My son runs a hip-hop label and tells his artists, “You are competing with Jay-Z, not the rapper down the street.” This applies to iphonic art as well.

People sometimes write to me to inquire if the PixelEx App is working properly: they have sent in a number of pictures and none have been published. I must write back and explain that P1xels is a highly curated site and that I am passing on their work. Believe me, I always hope there is at least one passable picture in a batch from a newcomer to the site. Some people take exception to this and never submit another picture, content to collect flattering comments on Flicker, Facebook, or other sites. Others push forward, developing their skills and their vision and their craft and begin producing work of P1xels caliber.

Neil Diamond used to write a song every day and then walk around the Brill Building in New York City trying to sell it to a publisher. He struck out over and over and over, all the while learning his craft. He did not give up. He mastered his craft and eventually sold a song and then became … Neil Diamond.

Curation is a very subjective process and I am not perfect. I have learned a great deal since the launch of the site, one very important thing being that, if I am curating from a place of scarcity or fear, I invariably begin posting pictures that should not be posted. (As I edit this page on August 9, 2012, it occurs to me that I have not had to “curate from scarcity” in a very long time!).

Another thing I notice is the frequency with which people post images. No one, and I mean no one, can create a great picture every day. I’ve seen many try, including myself, and what happens, invariably, is that all the work begins to suffer. I first noticed this happening two years ago. When someone starts sending in a picture or two or three every day, I start tuning that artist out: I have never seen someone be able to sustain an output of excellence working at that rate. It’s like David Bowie’s albums “Tonight” and “Never Let Me Down,” in the late 80’s … it’s still David Bowie, but they are pathetic when compared to “Hunky Dory.”

As Ansel Adams once remarked: “If you get twelve great pictures a year, that’s a good crop.”

So P1xels isn’t for everyone, obviously.

I have never regretted not publishing a picture: I take no pleasure in not publishing a picture, although I have been accused of that; I have many a time regretted publishing a picture when five minutes or five hours later I realize it was a mistake. But un-publishing a picture is always fraught with negativity and hurt feelings, so a mistakenly published image must remain in the timeline.

I liken the flow of incoming images to a stream, sometimes whitewater rapids. Every day the flow is different. I have seen mornings where not one picture was publishable, and, one time, anyway, that fifteen straight pictures were amazing. I remember that morning as clearly as I remember losing my virginity (before most you were born).

The artists on P1xels not only set the bar, which I merely uphold, but continually raise the bar, as well. What would have been exciting six months ago, might seem rather bland now – this usually has to do with the apping. A great picture, apped appropriately—either a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter—does not age. Usually it’s the not so great pictures apped very well that begin to show their age, or just don’t seem so exciting six months later. You know, like the gated reverb sound on drums that you hear on every song in the eighties.

A true artist matches the apping to the image. In this case, I think one of the Dali filters would have worked better. So this picture was rejected. Sometimes bad taste is just not enough to make the cut at P1xels. And sometimes it is.

I have written extensively about the kinds of things I do not like: heavy or wide frames, people shot from behind, shadow-shots, most Hipstamatic shots, mirrored shots, oh the list goes on … and exceptions to every so-called rule, of course.

Of late I have been tightening the curation on P1xels once again. We are entering a new era in the movement.

Hipstamatic re-apped perfectly: the soulful combination of image and appropriate apping by Reservoir Sally and Hud Boondock. This is art.

I did try an experiment with guest curators for specific categories last year. It didn’t work. Some artists stopped submitting work after some of their pieces were rejected by volunteer curators they did not “respect.” Even though the experiment was a failure, I know one thing for certain: my volunteer curators found out that curation is mostly a thankless and difficult job, if done in the proper spirit, which is artistic and aesthetic principles over personalities. They took their jobs very seriously, I can attest to that, and I thought they all did a great job, despite what anybody else thought.

With the next version of the site, artists will have much more control over their images, and the ability to create galleries of their own work and others, along with other features. The front end of the site will always be curated, of course.

This is what sets P1xels apart.

I welcome feedback, as always. I want to thank everybody for your willingness to help out with suggestions and comments. It is truly appreciated.