CAMERA CLUB: Please support your local artists

Creativity is essential to humanity. It is an important part of every culture. Our earliest cave-dwelling ancestors spent most of their energies just trying to survive, yet they still took time to paint on walls.

Thursday, 21st May 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 6:28 pm

Even now, the least technologically advanced societies still find time to paint, decorate, create music and dance. Hardship often inspires great art. Maybe some masterpieces will spring from this coronavirus emergency.

One good thing about this lockdown is that people are finding time to express themselves creatively.

Artists and musicians are posting their compositions online far more than in the past.

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Northumberland’s friendly communities of poets, painters, photographers and musicians have brightened the lives of others by generously sharing their talents.

All professional artists are badly hit financially by this crisis. For photographers, wedding photography is put on hold. We are unable to drive to a distant location to capture landscapes commissioned by clients. Nobody can ask for studio portraits. I am not able to deliver photography courses and workshops, although I still run some online.

Luckily, the website design and development side of my business still ticks over. However, other professional artists are worse hit. It is a low paid industry anyway and many supplement their income with part-time employment. Those that do may well earn slightly more than half of their meagre income from two days of employment than from the five remaining days of self-employment as an artist; the self-employed often work seven days a week. This means that they were ineligible to get any of the government’s support despite losing all their artistic earnings. They are even worse hit if furloughed from their part-time work which reduces those wages too.

Even with support, most self-employed workers’ overheads amount to more than the relief they get.

80% of their net income is inadequate, not even covering ongoing expenses. Furthermore, they cannot afford loans, extra debt they will never have enough money to repay. Indeed, many younger artists are already burdened with unmanageable student loans.

It is not just the artists suffering. Consequently, a range of related businesses are damaged. My suppliers over the last year included photographic shops, artists’ supplies, framers, printers, professional bodies, village halls, insurance companies, magazine publishers and the coffee shops where I meet my clients. Other artists rent studios and have business vehicles to run.

Creative businesses account for around 8% of UK GDP. That is roughly the same size as the financial services industry. Photography alone is worth £1.8 billion, comprising almost 14,000 companies employing 43,700 people. Half of those businesses are sole traders or freelance photographers.

Camera retailers are already badly hit. There was already an 87% drop in camera sales since 2010. In March this year, the sales of cameras compared with March 2019 fell a further 64%.

There are things you can do to help your local artists. Some will not cost you a penny. Commenting upon, liking and sharing their social media posts helps raise their profile. Leave them positive reviews on Facebook, Google, and Trust Pilot. Please take time to do it, it makes a huge difference and is appreciated.

Now is a good time to buy art. Instead of hanging a Picasso or Turner print or buying a mass-produced vase, consider investing in an original paintings or pottery. Or purchase drawings, sculptures, jewellery, carvings or photographs from your local artists. Maybe buy some art as gifts. Original art grows in value and is unique.

Support your local living artists. It will help Northumberland’s economy and keep artists working.

After all, dead artists do not need to buy food!