On Selling Street Photography

(excerpted from a recent newsletter)
Selling photography is a weird thing. Well, selling street photography is a weird thing. Well, that’s a subset of being an artist and trying to sell art being a weird thing. For most of my life I’ve maintained an emotionally safe distance from anything I was doing for money. Even things I cared deeply and passionately about, it was still a project that many people were working on or someone else’s art or music that I was trying to help sell. So something selling or not, or getting funding or not, or seeing widespread adoption or not was a reflection of a collective effort and not of me personally. I’m sure at some base level thats why I spent so much of my life denying that I was an artist because then I would have to take ownership and responsibility for that art. Even when everyone around me was saying “why are you being such an idiot, of course you are an artist” and I would say “No I’m not, I’m just a guy who makes some stuff which sometimes hangs on walls in art galleries and is bought by art collectors” because that gave me distance.

As most of you know a while back I gave up on that facade and admitted that fine, ok, I am an artist. I think many people on this list have actually bought some of my photos and I’m eternally grateful for that, as it’s those kinds of “voting with your dollars” which is encouraging and helpful in realizing “ok, maybe this thing that means a lot to me also holds value to others.” Anyway, that’s a tangent. I was talking about street photography. Back when I used to have an art gallery the whispered secret was that photography wasn’t “real art.” I didn’t feel that way and I think the number of photographers I showed demonstrates that, but when talking to other gallerists and even some collectors it would often get to “well anyone could do that” which is such utter bullshit, but it’s interesting to pick apart why people feel that way. There’s a skill in painting that everyone understands – can you paint a photorealistic portrait? No? But someone else can? Ah, ok that’s a skill. But get into something more abstract or street feeling and you start getting that “anyone could do this” argument from detractors. Talk to someone who “doesn’t get art” about Pollock or Basquiat and inevitably they will go there. The difference between could do it and did do it is hard for some people to understand. It gets worse with photography because everyone has a camera, and while most can understand that just because they own a paintbrush doesn’t make them a painter that same courtesy isn’t often extended to photographers. Especially with mobile phones and filters, the skill of photography is easily written off as “right place, right time” luck and not attributed to skill as it should be.

But I’m rambling again. Selling photography. When I had an art gallery and would show photographers, often people would come in and be taken aback and ask “oh, is this a photogallery?” which they differentiated from an art gallery. Because they didn’t see photography as art, they saw it as fantasy. Which is really one of the major selling points for photography. The best selling photography is landscape work, followed by celebrity portraiture and maybe a bit of historical documentary work. This is all driven by daydreams and fantasy. Which are good things, I’m not knocking them at all. If you think of buying art because you are going to hang it on your wall and look at it all the time, then you think about how it’s going to make you feel. Landscape work just begs for daydreams. You can stare at a good landscape photo and marvel at the beauty of the place and think about what it smells like or feels like to be there, you can hope to see it one day with your own eyes. It’s a launchpad for a million dreams. Especially if your normal life is boring or stressful, having an incredible landscape photo to look at is endless mental escapes. Because it’s real. Someone stood there and took the photo, so conceivably you could go there too. You can’t get that with a painting, where just by the very nature of the thing you are getting the artist’s interpretation. But a photograph, that’s real! Celebrity work is similar in that it’s an instant reminder of someone you might look up to, or aspire to be like. A really good portrait conveys some intimacy and you can feel like you know that person by looking at it better than you would just seeing them playing some character in a movie or playing in the big game. You can look into their eyes and and imagine what they are thinking about, or imagine they are looking back at you. Historical work reminds you of a time and place that isn’t there anymore, maybe nostalgia or fantasy about “the good old days” or even just a chance to marvel at how far we’ve come since then. These are all elements that drive people to purchase photography.

Street photography doesn’t benefit from any of that. It’s often gritty. The feelings and emotions it evokes are not things most people want to be reminded of. The subjects are most likely strangers, and if you can look into their eyes and imagine what they are thinking it’s frequently not something you want to experience first hand. It’s voyeurism, letting the viewer experience a reality that is foriegn from them – usually for a reason. It lets them see and feel what another part of the world lives. This can be entertaining but also gripping. This is why street photography books do well, because you can look at it and then put it away where you don’t have to look at it. There’s a beautiful ugliness in it. Not all the time, but often. I was talking about this on twitter and I noted that even with my own work, the work without people sells far better than the work with people – though I get many more comments about the work with people. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

I think NFTs actually have the potential to change that up a bit because they sit somewhere between something on your wall and a book you can put away. You can make a virtual gallery to see things big and on the wall, but you can also just leave them tucked away in your wallet and support artists you like without thinking about where to put the art in your home. This is going to continue to evolve especially as photography is only just now starting to find a following in the NFT collector world, but we’ll see. I still have some 1 of 1 editions listed on FoundationKnown Origin and MakersPlace and I also just made a lower priced edition of 20 on Rarible, and still have a very few of the first edition I minted back at the beginning of the year.

Hello. Remember blogging?

I realized recently that I’ve sent almost 100,000 tweets and that kind of freaked me out. Deconstructed a bit, as one of the first people to sign up for the site which has been online for over 10 years now that’s a little less than 10,000 tweets per year, and not even close to 1000 a month – closer to 200 a week or about 30 a day. Maybe less. Of course that’s not indicative of any actual day, more likely some days I sent 100s of tweets and other days stayed in single digits, but the fact remains I’m approaching 100k. Of from that what do I have to show? Sure I’ve met some cool people and seen some interesting events play out, but I don’t think I can point to any single one of those tweets (except maybe this one) and say “damn, I’m proud of that!” And not that I should, but I’m having a little crisis of faith over here so let me just run with it a bit. So it’s not only a question for me of what I did, but also what I didn’t do. I’ll never know for sure if instead of writing some piece of work that I’d be able to reference time and time again I sent some tweets. Maybe I could have hashed through some of the craziness in my head a little better if I’d spent more time writing longer form thoughts, instead I sent some tweets. I don’t know, and I’ll never know, but at the moment I’m not completely happy with that decision in hindsight. I’ve kicked around the idea of quitting when I hit that milestone, maybe I will and maybe I won’t. But I do know that I’m not getting what I once did from the site and if I’m honest with myself I haven’t for a long time and I need to stop pretending that isn’t the case.

I miss blogging, so I’m going to be spending more time writing here.

Without venturing too far from this reflection go how I’ve spent my time, I’ve been looking at my days and as I approach 42 years on this rock, the acceptance that I may very well have crossed the point where I have more time behind me than ahead of me. And if that’s that case, or even if it isn’t, I’d like to be more conscious of just what I spent my time on. On days when I’m reactive, that is spending all day long responding to inbounds and juggling whatever comes up at the moment, I feel like I get nothing done. Like I’m running too slow on a very fast moving sidewalk and at the end of the day I’m more behind then where I started. On days where I decide ahead of time and put together a structure for what I’ll do and when, I end the day thrilled with all I’ve pulled off and where I’m at. And for whatever reason right now I feel very disorganized mentally, lots of half baked plans and ideas and goals that I don’t know where to start on, or what I need to pull off first to get things in motion, which makes the planning ahead to do X, Y and Z that much more of an effort. Structure helps with this. I’ve been in a super successful routine for a while now where I wake up, make the coffee and the kid’s lunch, get him to school and then stop at the gym on my way home. I start work closer to 10am but I’m in a much better headspace and I can focus on one thing or another noticeably better than if I just roll out of bed and grab my phone or my laptop. The trick of course is exactly that, not grabbing my phone or my laptop. I don’t have email on my phone and I’ve deleted most of the mental itchy notification kind of checking things from it which has helped a lot, but I do work with people all around the world and so no matter what time it is for me its primetime for someone else which means there’s always the potential for the “oh! real quick…” which turns into 3 hours of reacting.

One thing I need to be better at is identifying exactly what I want to do each day, even if it’s just for a little while. Things like reading, or working on music are obvious but because they are obvious they tend to get overlooked. “Of course I want to read every day, that’s a given” isn’t as rock solid of a mandate as “From 8 to 9 every night I’m going to read something, nothing else can interrupt that.” I function well in these kinds of schedules and structures. If you know me then you know I thrive on less options and get caught in loops of second guessing when I have too many, and I think this falls into that part of my head. It’s 8pm, what can I do? Well I have a todo list with hundreds of possible things that I could do which I can’t decide on which is most pressing and so I spent an hour refreshing twitter. And while I knew that before, I don’t think I recognized it as clearly and now that I have my goal is to correct it.

The first step here is finding the things I want to do every day. I used to think that I needed to spend X hours doing something for it to be worth doing, and then I couldn’t find X hours to do it so I didn’t do it, which is a huge fail. I’ve seen the value in spending short time on things and then being able to do them repeatedly. For example spending 15 minutes every day writing is better than not writing all week because I couldn’t find an open hour to sit down and do it. Same for music or anything else. So I’m working on what that daily locked in list might look like.

One of those things is skateboarding with my son. Skating is one of the first things I can remember in my life deciding on my own that I wanted to do and I’ve had a skateboard in one form or another for most of the last 30 years. The summer between 7th and 8th grade sticks out in my head as a notable milestone. I gotten my first skateboard a few years earlier but it was piece of shit mall skateboard that I know I’ve written about before but can’t be bothered to go look up a link to. Anyway, my friends were nice enough to not make fun of me about it and also nice enough to hand me a copy of Trasher and suggest that I get a real skateboard. As a younger kid this wasn’t my choice, but something clicked in my head that summer as we moved back to Florida after a few year stint in Texas and I was determined to not embarrass myself in front of all my potential new skater friends and saved up enough to get my own board. I spent hours obsessing over California Cheap Skates ads and their sweet deals on complete Powell decks that came with Indie trucks and Slimeballs. In my memory I planned out what I was going to get over months but it was likely shorter than that. Anyway, I entered 8th grade with a much better board and didn’t put it down. I lived on it in high school and in college, though admittedly its gathered much dust in the last 15 years. I was never any good at skateboarding, but I always loved doing it. It was fun, and it was this thing I could do on my own without needing anyone else to help or sign off on. I think one of the reasons I stopped was feeling overly self conscious that I wasn’t better at it, especially after all those years. I was always lucky that my friends never made me feel bad about not being better, but I felt increasingly self conscious when I’d be out around people I didn’t know, which made spending time at skate parks or back yard ramps basically impossible. Abandoned parking lots were my jam.

I’ve noticed Ripley talking about some of his friends skateboarding and seen him take an interest when we’ve seen skaters out in public and wanted to nurture that. I’ve also been following the trials and tribulations of Mike Vallely. I knew him from magazines and rode many of his pro models. As a vegetarian turned vegan his animal graphics and themes always struck a chord with me. I met him in person a few years ago through some of our many mutual friends and while I usually try to avoid meeting people whose public persona’s I’ve looked up to because it’s almost always disappointing, in every every interaction I’ve had with Mike he’s been as genuine and authentic as I could have hoped he would be. I’ve tried to keep up with his efforts. I’ve always really liked his message that skating is more than just this activity, that it’s soulful and magic, and that individual fun and enjoyment should be paramount. And so it’s been sad to see a run of business backed ventures not work out. And at the same time, really exciting to see him launch Street Plant, his newest brand with just him and his family driving, so he’s not beholden to anyone elses motivations. And I think this has been the perfect vehicle for him to really evangelize the love of skateboarding as an art, and seeing him talk about it reminded me how much I liked it, and how much I missed it. And that was the perfect impetus to get the kid into it as well. So we’ve been skating together, not a lot, but a little bit every day while he figures out his balance and hits big personal milestones like skating all the way down the street without falling. And it’s been every bit as fun as I hoped it would be. I’m looking forward to doing more of it.

So that’s my stream of consciousness rant for the day. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.


I’ve been progressivly making the move from physical books to kindle versions, I’ve talked about this in the past just from a physical space standpoint but the convenience of having all my books with me at any given moment is hard to downplay as well. And yes it has it’s setbacks as well but for me there’s more on the win side so my physical bookshelf is being whittled down to mostly hardback first editions of books I love and or books my friends have written – with some books even fitting into both those categories. 


The ease of buying books for the kindle is great too, but maybe too great. I often hear a friend talk about a book they are enjoying and quickly buy it so that I have it in my library and can read it later on. This has resulted in way too many books sitting unread in my kindle library, which is almost as bad as the way too many books sitting 20-30% read in my kindle library. To the point when I look back I forget why I have a book, or what is going on with it in the part I’ve read. It’s getting to be a problem. I think I’m going to put a moratorium on buying new books for a while to try and get through the ones I have. I know I’m not the only one who has this issue but I’m also not really sure I’m looking for advice on how to deal with it – I just need to focus on finishing books rather than jumping around to new ones all the time. I know some friends have told me they force themselves to finish a non-fiction book and then reward themselves with fiction and still others have moved entirely to audiobooks. Audible is a piece of shit on every level which pretty much rules out the audiobooks for me because of the strangle hold they have on that entire industry. Bastards.


(originally posted on my secret blog, and then sent to my mailing list, been getting some great feedback on it so posting more widely here too)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the balance between creation and curation recently, or maybe the imbalance between the two. And how rewarding each are for different reasons. For better or worse I’ve spent a lot of my time and life in the curation category – finding cool things and pointing others to them. Be it bands, artists, news stories, whatever. I’ve also had my share of creation of course too – I put designing record covers in that category, and of course writing as well. Photography, music, art are firmly in creation. I’m much more confident about the curation – I know when something is awesome or interesting and I don’t second guess the urge or need to point other people to it. I love doing it – but in the end I’m still pointing to other people’s work and I’m only valuable tomorrow if I find more things to point at. I’m less comfortable with the creation but I find it infinitely more fulfilling. From now for the rest of time I made that, and I can look back on it and people can discover it years later and it still came from me. It’s just as awesome, maybe more so, today when I see someone wearing a t-shirt with a band logo I drew or quoting something I wrote many years ago. These things have a life of their own.

Making music and art now is similarly exciting and I’m looking forward to where that ends up. But it keeps making me think about opportunities I passed up that I didn’t even recognize as opportunities at the time. I was lucky to find punk rock in the mid-80’s and those influences changed my life. I felt like I contributed to the scene by putting out records and booking tours, but looking back now I shouldn’t have passed on the many chances I had to actually be in bands and create things that might have lasted. I don’t feel like I missed out so much as I didn’t get all I could out of it. I love the experiences I had, but I can’t help but recognize that there could have been more. I try to keep this in mind going forward with new ideas.

I have books that I wrote 10 years ago and never published, it feels too late now but I know I shouldn’t have talked myself out of it then. When it’s mine, I want things to be great and perfect. And I’m good at convincing myself that things need more work to be great, work that never gets finished. Real artists ship right? I need to ship more often.

I think a lot about the world right now and my place in it. I still do a lot of curation. I find things and point people to them. A lot of things I’m reading or things that sparked my interest. In turn, people point to me as a filter. But I don’t know that I really want to be a filter. I mean, I am so there’s that, but that’s not my aspiration, and at the end of the day thinking about and saying “Man, I linked to some great stuff today, so proud of that!” isn’t really something that happens. Ever.

And on top of that, the world is fucking depressing right now. The news is all bad all the time. And I think that’s influencing my mood in ways I don’t like. I wake up next to my beautiful wife to the sounds of our amazing kid causing some awesome chaos somewhere in our great house filled with wonderfully handpicked stuff and I smile. And then I see the news and I think we’re fucked. And then I pass that on to everyone else. I don’t want to ruin people’s days anymore.

I don’t know where I’m getting with this line of thought, just that I’m thinking. And I want to make more things. I want to make more music. I want to write more. I want to create more. So that’s what I’m going to do. Said. Done. Stay tuned.

Encryption and Suspicion

Why using encryption is seen as suspicious — the difference between privacy and secrecy.


(Originally posted on Medium)

Not long ago I discussed some of the steps I was taking to ensure some privacy online and since then have had quite a few conversations with other people about their own efforts to do the same. We most frequently talk about how easy or hard something is to implement and express shared desire to have more of these options baked in as standard features on normal applications used by everyone. If encrypting an email was as easy as CCing some for example, it’s safe to assume more people would encrypt their emails.

These discussions also inevitably note that the simple act of encrypting your email is more likely to draw the attention of folks like the NSA because to some people this is seen as suspicious behavior. But I don’t buy it — if encrypting your email is suspicious that’s only the case because not many people do it, which is only the case because it’s not that easy. And now we’re running in circles. But lets think about this a bit more for a second.

What’s so suspicious about it?

Checking in on everyday


A few months ago I wrote about things I wanted to do on a daily basis because they are important to me. In efforts to keep myself in check I thought I’d review that list again and see how I’m doing. I can tell you right that this isn’t going to be a positive review. I’m really, exceptionally good at distracting myself with random life things and messing up my plans. Which is in part why I kind of go overboard on the self structuring sometimes, without it who knows what kind of a disaster I’d be.

Hi Folks From The Daily

Hello. I’m delighted that The Daily has run a version of my post about leaving Facebook and I’m excited to hear feedback about it and get some other opinions. I’m not foolish enough to think I have all the answers, or even some of them, so it’s great to get some other perspectives on hot button issues like this.

If this is your first time here and you are wondering “who the crap is this Sean Bonner guy?” don’t worry, that’s a normal reaction and you aren’t alone. Here’s a little bio that might help. You can also stalk me/talk to me over on Twitter or Google+ – I hang out on both of those sites a lot. If you just want to read more of my thoughts, this site is the best place for that (use the dropdown bar on the right to find categories you care about).

Thanks for stopping by!