Monday, December 12, 2022

The Non-Profit Industrial Complex

This is kind of gossipy, feel free to move along.

Anyone who's spent any time dealing with non-profits knows that they're all pretty much a shitshow. They're interested in their thing, whether it's lobbying for bike lanes, feeding the poor, or putting on photography festivals. They're very not interested in, or good at, getting the paperwork done correctly. I don't think I've ever known of a non-profit that's filed its Form 990 on time. So, that's a baseline.

We also know that photography tends to attract a certain perhaps overage of mediocrities. Yes, people who want to feed the poor are often dolts as well, but photography as a whole seems to have a lot of people who rather fancy styling themselves as "into photography" without actually being into anything other than trying on an identity. Of course, there is a spectrum from "dolt" to "genius" so you find all kinds of people in the middle.

Finally, note that photography non-profits, of the sort that put on festivals and whatnot, seem to rise and fall. They're the hot thing for a few years, then they're struggling for funding, and then they're gone. Except for Aperture, I guess, but then, they seem to be actual grownups.

My acquaintance (some say my very very special best friend, but they are in error) Dr. Dennis Low, animal photographer, Londoner, occasionally sends me bits and pieces of things from his investigations. He's mildly obsessed with the sheer swampiness of British Photography as a bastion of know-nothing blow-hards, liars, cheats, and idiots. This is saying something, since he came at it from literary criticism and fine art painting, so the fact that he finds it especially venal is, I think, telling.

One of the funnier bits is the Story of PhotoIreland. They have been one of the Hotter items for a bit, but I think their star may be descending?

If I understand/recall the various tidbits properly, it appears that this thing was basically just one dude all along, maybe two people some of the time. Their governance appeared to be offering highish profile Photography People seats on the board of directors, but never actually making it official. PhotoIreland would get a bit of press about So-and-so joining the board. So-and-so would stick it on their resume and maybe get a bit of juice. Perhaps they even had a meeting now and then! But the paperwork was never filed, and they never actually joined the board.

To be fair what's-his-name seems to have actually put on festivals and whatnot with money he raised, but there's actually a reason for having a board and actual governance!

I dare say it was quite efficient. Decision-making is a breeze when it's just you, after all. Still, it's a bad look when you're selling resume material, but not actually delivering it. I guess when you're getting paid in "exposure" maybe there's not a lot of incentive to deliver anything. "Join our board" "cool, can I put it on my CV?" "of course!" and then it turns out you were never on the board at all that your employer can tell, and everyone rather has egg on their face. It's not like you did it on purpose, and it's not like you lied about having a PhD, but it's still not great.

If I understand rightly, this has proven a little embarrassing for a few people, and as a bonus, PhotoIreland appears to be getting its paperwork in order. So, good for them, I guess!

Anyways, I disagree with Dr. Low slightly on what this all means. I suspect that basically all the equivalent organizations are just as fucked up. It follows that at some percentage of these organizations, though by no means all, the dude in charge, the dude who is actually is the entire thing, it treating it as a personal piggy bank. There's so little money in play, though, that he's using it to buy an illicit pint a couple times a year and that's about it.

In some ways, I am more interested in the idea that literary criticism is somehow not this much of a mess? I should enquire!

Anyway Dr. Low has provided me with a detailed rundown of some of the shenanigans in his inimitable way, and I am laboriously formatting it for blogger's terrible software, and you'll be able to sort through what the kids call "the receipts" in the near future, perhaps tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. There may be more money in play than you imply, gummint [EU] money. AND you can be a patron for only three bucks a month ...