As many of you (like 5 of you really) may know, I have a Patreon page. It's been running a little over a year and a half. It has turned out to be a resounding failure, for a slew of reason, not all of them my fault, some of them very much so, regardless... I'm shutting it down, and here's why.
Patreon is very much based on this concept of hope labor. I will do this thing, for free, and hope that someone will support it in the future. Artists, writers, photographers, designers, you know what I'm talking about. Great idea in theory, entirely terrible idea in practice. The fact that I am and have been basically doing this anyway, for years, without a platform to gain sponsors and patrons, makes Patreon a terribly attractive idea on many levels. Here's the problem(s)...
"Do you want to buy this photograph? No? I completely understand."
This is, and always has been, my standard sales pitch. I'm not a salesman, I don't want to be a salesman, I never will be a salesman. Period. Patreon promises a platform that connects paying fans to the creators they want to follow, but it does not deliver. It provides a decent platform for pushing work to subscribing patrons, but fails miserably at actually searching for, finding, and connecting anyone with anything. The responsibility is solely on the creator to seek out and drive patrons to their page and close the deal. Additionally, the publishing platform itself is quite lacking, and though better than when I started, needs a great deal more features and flexibility to become viable for the majority of content creators. For this platform, Patreon skims 5% of artists earnings, not including processing fees (Paypal, Stripe, etc).
Patreon is absolutely amazing for people with a large, established following, and that's not me. The time put into promoting this page is staggering when you take a step back and actually look at it. On top of that, the other services used to promote it require their own investment in time and effort to be of any use or effectiveness. I currently run a website, with a blog updated semi-regularly, a Facebook page, an Instagram stream, at least 2 or 3 Tumblr blogs at any given time (because I freaking love Tumblr, honestly), and probably some other social-media crap I'm forgetting about. It's ludricous, it's busy work, and I'm tired of it.
Perhaps most importantly, I feel as though I've begun to create content to satisfy a subscriber, and that is absolutely the last thing on Earth I ever wanted to be when I decided to pursue photography as my life's work. This took me a minute to realize, and come to terms with, and it's not something I'm willing to continue doing. I am, however, in a position that I don't have to.
By definition, I am not technically, on paper, a professional photographer. The vast majority of my income comes from other places. I work at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in a full time position that affords me a decent salary, benefits, and flexibility to pursue my own work. I do classroom support for various departments, I teach on average 3 photography courses a semester, I manage the pool of equipment that students can checkout during classes, and I'm incredibly fortunate to have this stable, steady income that allows me to continue producing my own work. I also married really well, and that doesn't hurt either.
The point is, I don't need Patreon, and they don't need me, which is a wonderful thing.
It wasn't always this way... I've been crushingly poor at times, I've weighed 50 pounds less than I do now (it wasn't pretty), I've sold cameras to make rent, I've borrowed money from friends, I've been in debt, but the solution to those problems, the very real issues that working artists are faced with every day, aren't going be solved with Patreon, or Kickstarter, there is no app for that, there is no magic platform.
It hasn't been a total failure to say the least. I've thoroughly enjoyed creating new work in a different way, and putting it out into the world. To those of you that supported my work, I cannot begin to thank you enough. To think that even a handful of you out there cared enough about what I was doing to not just pledge money, but to want to get prints in the mail once a month on top of that is just amazing and flattering, and I am forever in your debt. Some of you have supported me from day one (I'm looking at you Doc and Jon) and for that I will be eternally grateful.
All that said, I will be shutting down my Patreon page, and ceasing all subscriptions, effective immediately. From here on out, I'll be focusing on this, my own personal website, and less on the social media busy work that has become such a distraction.
And now, for the sales pitch...
If you'd like to support my work, please buy a print, purchase a book, commission a portrait, help me fund an exhibition, share my work with others, or just send me an email and tell me you enjoy what I do. It would mean the world to me.
And if you don't want to do any of those things... I completely understand.