By Will Daniels
Last month, ASMP Minneapolis
hosted possibly its largest and most successful event in recent memory, The New Unknown
. With over 230 attendees, an open bar, and an environment geared towards fostering friendly debate, the event provided an all-too-rare opportunity for professionals from all sides of the creative industry to discuss the most important issues of today.
The New Unknown really started at ASMP's board retreat last August, where members discussed the past year's events and began planning events for the coming year. Emily Fishman of ASMP first had the idea for an event on a broader scale, discussing creativity, new opportunities, and contemporary industry issues in general, rather than the more typical how-to-build-your-portfolio type of event. The event would also look to be more open in targeting creatives of all types, including painters, sculptors, graphic designers, architects, entrepreneurs, and more, in addition to photography professionals. They wanted to tackle the feeling of vulnerability and fear of failure that generally comes when one is willing to take risks and step into the unknown. Bringing individuals together from all sides of the industry to inspire different ways of looking at the world, tackling the fears, hopefully providing enough support to help creatives overcome these fears and vulnerabilities, and to take risks they may have previously been averse to trying, would be hugely beneficial.
Ideas for this potential event continued to evolve over the next few months, but when Julian Richards
abruptly retired and released his prominent PDN article
, things really began to take shape. The event would be an open-ended and frank discussion about the current state and future of the industry, in addition to the topics previously mentioned, with Julian heading up a panel of experienced professionals. In addition to Julian, three other top pros agreed to lend their voices to the panel: Laura Beckwith of The Garden Party
, an NYC talent agency with a unique and progressive approach, Timothy Archibald
, an experienced photographer from San Francisco, and Darrell Eager
from Minneapolis. Both photographers are known for their distinctive and committed creative styles. Some other creatives who inspired the event include Seth Godin, The Great Discontent, Brene Brown, and Krista Tippett.
Thanks to an all-encompassing promotional campaign that included social media, radio spots, posters, print mail, and the ensuing word of mouth, more than 230 people attended the event. This number would already be impressive in New York or Los Angeles, but in a relatively mid-sized city like Minneapolis, it's pretty extraordinary.
To get things started, there was a packed social hour featuring a DJ and craft drinks by "The Godfather" of Twin Cities' cocktail culture, Johnny Michaels. Everyone seemed to be having such a good time making new connections and partying that it proved somewhat difficult to actually get down to business. However, you could argue this was one of best aspects of the event. Getting hundreds of diverse professionals all mingling and sharing ideas in one setting is a rare and extremely productive exercise that could lead to countless new connections and potential projects. Plus, giving everyone a little liquid courage before they before they had the chance to share innovative and potentially controversial ideas before hundreds of their peers probably didn't hurt either.
Once things got started, the conversation touched on a wide range of topics that included the creative process, how each stays loyal to that process, how to deal with a host of different client challenges, and questions from the audience like, “What do you do when staying true to your creative passion doesn’t pay there bills?” As most creatives find out sooner or later, there is not one definitive answer. While there weren't concrete answers for every question or topic, this ambiguity was part of what made the event successful, as the range of opinions on display provided greater depth and allowed each attendee to further develop the one opinion that matters most, his or her own.
Here are some of the more memorable quotes from the presenters:
"Have an authentic social media voice or don't bother at all!" - Laura Beckwith
"Don't worry about how it's supposed to be. Tap into what you've got." -Timothy Archibald
“Be a photographer, not just an Instagram filter…” – Darrell Eager
“Awards don't make your work better." – Darrell Eager
“Burn brightly. The world is attracted to that!” – Julian Richards
A special thanks goes out to Karl Herber and Emily Fishman for their significant contributions to this article.