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Hey, wanna go spend a glorious summer weekend indoors, talking about wills, trusts and copyright law? How about the myriad ways you might address organizing your photographic prints and files, not to mention the horrific pitfalls of not doing so? Well, some brave souls did just that this past weekend at the 2015 New England Portfolio Review and Workshops. This year’s topic was the unbearably sexy subject of “Securing Your Photographic Legacy: Archive and Estate Planning for the Future.” All kidding aside, this tedious, stymying task is among the most important things you can do to ensure that your artistic intentions and lifetime’s work are not lost to future generations. And the big takeaway message is, it’s never too early to start.
If you’re game, here are my top picks for compelling nuggets of knowledge. In the the kick-off discussion addressing “What is your legacy and why should you care?”, (for which I served as moderator) panelists Leslie Bartlett, Tony Decaneas, Alison Nordstrom, Sarah Pollman and Neal Rantoul imparted some important practical advice and a few wicked scary stories about preparing your photographic inventory and creating an archive that aligns with your intentions for the work you leave behind. Key points were: 1. Organize your work concurrently with creating your work. Stated another way, this means start now. 2. In organizing your work, think about it in terms of who you want to have it, like family, friends, organizations, institutions. 3. Talk with those people about your wishes. With an institution such as a library or your alma mater, that means engaging in an ongoing, often long-term relationship in order to develop a mutually beneficial plan. 4. Make prints and sign those prints as soon as you make them. 5. Put as much information as is reasonably possible on the back of your prints, along with your signature, so the information can’t be separated from the print (e.g. negative, print and edition numbers, but not things like inkjet cartridge numbers – there are other vehicles for that level of detail, such as The Photographic Information Record).
One of the best pieces of advice offered during the weekend was simply this: there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel or struggle in isolation. Get help. In Sunday’s session, “Creating a Lasting Legacy: Estate Planning for Visual Artists”, lawyers Jim Grace and Megan Low of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston and the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts program, walked the audience through the first steps to planning well, using the Estate Planning Workbook for Visual Artists developed by the Joan Mitchell Foundation. In addition to introducing various legal implications of estate planning – or not planning – they provided outstanding resources. In order to further assist photographers, all of the materials used and referenced during the legacy workshops may be accessed now through the Griffin Museum.
One could easily surmise from the weekend’s excellent programming that the task of organizing and preparing your legacy might be, to put it mildly, quite daunting. But there was plentiful practical advice and an enormous dose of impetus delivered with the truism that failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail. Although you may need to confront some ticklish issues regarding your own mortality, the experts agreed on the first step: define your goals. Starting now to think about what you want to happen to your work is the most important step in ensuring that you have a meaningful, cohesive plan for your legacy.
The Griffin Museum of Photography, in conjunction with the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston and the Peter Urban Legacy Exhibition Seminar Series is presenting several discussions that are free and open to the public this summer. For a schedule of events, go to: http://www.griffinmuseum.org/blog/events/
Feature Image: “Thomas Struth, The National Gallery 1, London, 1989” by Tina Barney (courtesy of the artist)