[VIEWPOINT]Artistic freedom comes with price

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[VIEWPOINT]Artistic freedom comes with price

We call someone who is good at something a "professional." But more often than not, a professional refers to someone who should live on his own work.

To make a living from a piece of work, one should excel at that work, so one should do his best based on his unique talent. Not only that, professionals sometimes have to suck up to those who place orders for their work. But amateurs do whatever they like, without worrying about making ends meet. They can put their zeal and enthusiasm in whatever they want to do, thus they sometimes are even better at that area than professionals. In most areas these days, the line between professional and amateur has blurred. I can even say that amateurs in the purest sense are extinct. From the Olympic Games that used to be dubbed pure competition among amateur athletes, to various other forms of sports, and even the arts, many precious things that cannot be converted to money have been overshadowed by money.

What are those "artists" thinking when filing in to get subsidies from the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation? If they are professionals, why do they ask for others to help them, and if they are amateurs, why do they seek windfalls that are extracted from ordinary taxpayers for the things that they do just because they like it? I am aware that in Korea the environment is poor where we can do "art." But does handing out money to artists really promote art? If so, that would not be the kinds of art we want to see bloom.

Whether they be professional or amateur, these artists do their work because they like it. If they cannot make money selling photographs, paintings or novels, or if they are exhausted watching their work fail to sell or take off, they ought to look for other jobs. I am thankful that there is a government agency that will help artists without asking them to give up their freedom as collateral. That must not be the task of the Ministry of Culture, but the Ministry of Welfare.

Though times may be desperate, for artists to rely financially on others means that the artists should give up on their independence or more important, freedom. Can we call the attitude that prevails in this election season that taking whatever bribe the candidates give, and voting for whatever candidates one likes to, a "freedom?" That may be true, but if there is an artist who is only interested in selling his works, he would fall into the category of one who has abandoned freedom. Those who can reject works that promise good money if they dislike it, and those who say no to the projects that aim at high causes if they are not confident they are equal to the task, will be genuine professionals. Amateurs can be more free and naive than that. But if we look into only the photographers' community, most amateurs are those who wander about without any sense of direction. Many of them enter contests catering to the tastes or tendencies of certain contests or judges. Giving up your own tastes to win a contest can be likened to throwing away freedom. Professionals who are all eyes to what is "current" in other advanced countries are not so different from senseless amateurs.

I have a fancy title: I am called a freelancer. That word may sound impressive, but I do not gain any practical experience from it. People think the time of the freelancer is free to them. So they tend to visit a freelancer to discuss ideas, and just go. Even though I am a poor freelancer who is on occasion milked out of time and ideas for free, if I want to hold on to that freedom, I have to be friends with such things as loneliness and unstable incomes.

Freedom is said to be free, but that is untrue. Freedom asks you to pay for it. Freedom, like fine sand, slides through your fingers when you try to hold it. I may be thought of as a man of freedom, but I still miss the genuine freedom that remains a safe distance from me.

The freedom that I yearn for does not need to be high and mighty. I wish that some day I could just dig into a hole without worrying much about anything or anyone else.


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The writer is a photographer.

by Kang Un-gu

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