Photography Notes - “OTD"

Is this OTD?  Is this electronic image a  print?*

March 6, 2017

OTD is such an apt abbreviation for me as an artist.  It stands for ‘Out The Door’ and I’ll credit it to the Canadian painter, Robert Genn, who coined this term in one of his twice-weekly letters.

Robert used the term when one of his paintings was either delivered to a purchaser or gifted to some one or some organization.  It no longer took up space in his studio.

For me, OTD means the same.  A piece of my photographic art is gone from my place.  It is into someone else’s hands and displayed as they see fit. 

If my images are in a gallery or coffee shop they may be temporarily OTD; however, if they don’t sell, they will come back to roost in my basement.

OTD does not necessarily mean that the piece of art is sold.  I have many OTD art pieces that I’ve donated or given as gifts similar to Robert Genn’s gifting.  The real key for me is that the art is no longer hidden away from view.  My photographic art is out there in the world for others to enjoy.  The art has taken on its own life, its value to others no longer influenced by me trying to verbally communicate my artistic intent.

The OTD thing for me is real — it’s physical.  It means a framed, original print has been delivered and it will be presented somewhere else, where a group of people that I don’t know and will never meet, will see it on a regular basis.

When a print of mine goes on display, I am putting myself out there for people to admire or criticize.  It is a risky thing to do, but I think it is an absolutely important part of the creative process.  The part where the creation is finished and put in front of others.  This is not the final part, not where the objective is met.  That occurs when the print leaves my house for good—it is out-the-door.

What about the digital world, where art can be presented almost instantly, anywhere, electronically?  When it is running through the internet as a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, where is the artefact?  Where is the print?  Where is the so-called, original?  I have the original digital file on my computer, but if I send out a copy of that file, which is the original?  After all, they will both look the same when displayed.  And who is to say that the files won’t be passed on, even with all of our best efforts to ask those receiving the files to keep them to themselves out of respect for the artist?  I know of at least one artist who found his original image being distributed out of another country without any reference to the original artist.  What is more, the person distributing the image was charging a healthy amount of money for it.

When a print is delivered OTD, that is a physical entity.  More prints may be made from the same file, but that is in the control of the artist.  For a painter, the original is truly unique.  If they produce another painted copy, it will never be the same.  That is the nature of hand painting.

I don’t consider an image delivered electronically to be the same as a delivered print.  Those electronic images are temporary,  insecure, lost, when compared to a print.  It can be on a screen for two to three seconds, for several weeks, or maybe even months, but its viewing is  temporary.  Recently an acquaintance of mine put up one of my images as his screensaver and expressed admiration for the art in the image.  Within a month he had a different screen saver and my image was relegated to a disk file, somewhere.  Even when it was on his screen it wasn’t on display for others to see.  No, this is not the same thing in my mind.  It might be out the door in a fashion, but only one or two people might see it.

I presume a commercial photographer who delivers wedding photos or corporate photos as a file on a disk or flash drive, must consider their work OTD.  That is their business and maybe some of it is their art.

Nevertheless, as of today, I can’t connect delivering an electronic file with delivering an OTD print.

What can I do about the growing collection of printed and mounted images in my basement?  I can envisage an unceremoniously displayed line up of prints at my estate sale, lying on the lawn beside a blender and set of chipped plates.  The framed prints priced at a dollar and those prints only matted prints will be in a box, selling for a dollar a box.  The framed prints may only be purchased to get the frame, and my image will be torn up and put into the recycle bin.

I must put more energy into creating more exhibits and donating my prints when I can.  Any exhibit sales will save the print from my estate sale.  Similarly, the gifted prints will escape the fate of those that will be spread out on the front lawn.

I’m going to continue to the best of my ability to get my prints OTD, whether by sale or gifting.  When all is said and done, I guess I’m still striving to leave some evidence that I WAS HERE!


PS.  The image is *Walking Levanto in the Rain" (2008)