Well, now you make me feel better...I left the house late this
morning in shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt; I briefly paused to
consider heading back in to at least grab a pullover, but decided not
to. Dumb move..." B.B.
The other dumb move I made was trying to pull the whole rig up the stairs - many sore muscles.
Now, for the heart of the matter: The sign I had said: Giclée prints. a) Nobody knew what this meant, and b) nobody except a couple of photographers cared. And photographers don't buy prints.
The most popular vendor was a Chinese guy who wrote your name in Chinese-looking characters on a long piece of paper for $5. At times, there were actually crowds of teenage tourists waiting to get one of these to take home to the midwest or wherever as a memory of their stay in the big ethnically mixed big apple.
The second most popular vendor was another Chinese guy selling little wind-up trinkets that bobbed up and down.
Compared to the last time I was out there - a few years ago - there were almost no "original" artists, perhaps none at all. I walked back and forth the length of the vendors and was hard pressed to find anything remotely original and I don't mean that in some artistic sense - I mean literally. Almost everything looked like it came from some main storehouse someplace in Central Asia.
The main thing is this - given the amount of people selling - you absolutely need a show-stopper. Something that will draw attention to your display - and this might best be served by hiring a guy in a chicken suit - or having something that moves on your table. At one point, I had bought a can of diet coke and after it was empty I began making "popping" noises with it as people walked by. I swear, this had some effect because as someone came by, they'd hear this noise, and look over to see what it was, and then more often than not stop by the stand to see what the cause was and from their go on to looking at the pictures.
Another thing that might work is some real splash of color. I was thinking that I might have my boards painted by some Tibetan monk -- in those fantastic Tibetan colors - or else have someone paint some of the boards as if they were Totem poles. I'm not kidding about this. Or it might be as simple as wrapping some of the boards in aluminum foil. You absolutely need some sort of shiny sparkly thing to attract the natives.
But overall -- I walked away feeling pretty good about the day. The main point was -- with a little touch of marketing ingenuity you could steal Manhattan again from the natives so long as you had baubles.
Here were some comments:
- Wow, those are really beautiful (and then walked on).
- Are those "real" photographs?
I wasn't sure how to answer that, or even what it meant.
- You are the real McCoy (photographer). No sale.
- Americans are morons. I do much better in Europe. Maybe I will go back. These people have absolutely no conception of art (a painter).
- Did you use any special filters to do that?
- How about two for $32 dollars. (Me, $32 dollars - how did you arrive at that number? How about 2 for $42 dollars.)
- Darkroom photography is dead. Who the hell cares how they were made. People are buying your imagination. (A fellow originally from the Ukraine who was selling some stain-glass things -- but had been doing photography for 50 years... one of the few guys there who had some original ideas about what the art world was about).
I spoke with several people who had been doing this at that location for five years or more. They all agreed that it was a tough way to make a living - long hours - no telling on any particular day how you were going to do. But they were still at it.
Bathroom activity. This is a real plus. You can walk into the bathroom of the Met through a side door. As I was going in -- a guard was having a fight with a punk who didn't want his bag searched. I did my business -- one of the urinals had me pretty confused since it wouldn't flush - until I walked away and then it flushed. Everything in the bathroom was what you'd call state of the art. Sinks turned off after you walked away. Paper came out of dispensers as you approached them. Ah, the uses of modern technology are just wonderful. Why should I have to press a button to flush when the urinal is watching me. In a state of wonder I walked back and forth watching the urinal flush and then stop as I approached some magical sensor line.
The bottom line is this - if you get their early -- say 8 a.m. on a weekday and 7:30 a.m. on a weekend -- you can get a good spot. So I am definitely going to concentrate on this during the next few weeks.