10/10: As is probably clear I am doing some work on artists’ engagements with the state, prompted in part by meeting, thinking with, and writing about Venus DeMars. Another audit case – an artist who is also an art professor – is big news at the moment, and because I think they’re instructive and know most people won’t wade through the court papers I pulled a couple of quotes from the court’s ruling on the question of the artist’s profit motive. The ruling for the most part leaves the specifics of the artist’s deductions to be settled separately, but there are a few useful asides on deductions and a few jarring glimpses into the simple realities of working as an artist. One clear and simple lesson from the opinion: artists really desperately need education about schedule C deductions, whether or not they use a bookkeeper or accountant. “Petitioner” refers to the artist, “respondent” to the IRS.

“Maintaining perfect sales records was difficult because galleries often neglected to provide her with all relevant sales information. In some cases she received a single check accompanied by a list of pieces sold, without specification of the purchaser’s identity or the sale price of each individual work. Ascertaining the purchaser’s identity was important because petitioner regarded each purchaser as a potential future customer. When petitioner received incomplete information, she contacted the gallery in an effort to obtain all relevant sales data. Such efforts were not always successful and, for that reason, petitioner’s sales records are not 100% accurate.
Respondent stipulated that the total value of works sold during her career is at least $937,150. Galleries usually took a 50% commission, and petitioner on several occasions received no proceeds at all because of financial distress or mismanagement on the gallery’s part. For example, petitioner had a solo exhibition of ten abstract paintings at Michael Steinberg Fine Art in 2009. Each painting was priced at $1,800 and all ten were sold. Petitioner never received payment for these works when the gallery closed during the financial crisis.
Petitioner’s theory for claiming deductions seems to have been that most experiences an artist has may contribute to her art and that most people with whom an artist socializes may become customers or otherwise advance her career. The trial established that a significant number of the deductions she claimed were not, within the meaning of section 162(a), “ordinary and necessary expenses” of conducting her art business but were “personal, living, or family expenses” non-deductible under section 262(a). The latter expenses appear to have included telephone and cable television bills, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, gratuities to doormen in her apartment building, taxicabs to the opera, museums, and social events, restaurant meals with friends and acquaintances, and international travel to gain inspiration from paintings in European museums.
Petitioner bears the burden of proving that she conducted her art business with a predominant, primary, or principal objective of earning a profit. […] However, “a reasonable expectation of profit is not required.”
The clear thrust of respondent’s examination was the notion that petitioner worked as an artist in order to keep her job as a teacher.
Petitioner practiced as an artist for a decade before she began teaching and for 25 years before she became a tenured full professor. For any practitioner who teaches–whether a lawyer, an accountant, an economist, or an artist–there is an obvious intersection between the individual’s profession and his or her teaching. But the two activities have different job requirements and entail different skills.
The trial established that Hunter College required or expected its art professors to exhibit their work; it did not require that they actually sell art. Many of the marketing and related business activities in which petitioner engaged were thus irrelevant to her teaching career. Respondent has not explained why petitioner would devote many hours to these tasks–some of them tedious or unpleasant–if her sole goal were to retain her teaching position. Indeed, during the tax years at issue petitioner was, and for the previous ten years had been, a tenured professor. Tenured professors were not subject to annual performance evaluations, and for them the requirement to exhibit art was at most an expectation that was not rigorously enforced.
… respondent contends that she lacks expertise in the economics of being an artist. But petitioner does not need an economics degree to know how to sell art.
…the mundane tasks that petitioner performed, such as marketing and networking with potential collectors, were essential only because she was conducting a business. They would have been unnecessary if she were pursuing a hobby.
For creative artists, the line between business and personal expenses may sometimes seem hard to discern. Petitioner is not alone in resolving doubts in favor of deductibility.
We find that petitioner’s enjoyment of her art activity–at least some of its aspects–is not sufficient to cause it to be classified as a hobby rather than a business. Petitioner devotes to her art activity a level of seriousness that takes it well beyond the realm of “recreation.””

8/10: I’ve updated some old working papers and uploaded two new ones over at SocArXiv, everyone’s favorite preprint / working paper / postprint / open science platform. I’ve received great feedback on papers I’ve posted there, it’s super easy and fast, and making your work as open as possible is the right thing to do. Check out SocArXiv (or your own field’s nonprofit open access repository) and get postin’.

8/5: In the coming month or so I’ll be at ASA and 4S presenting on new work. Holler if you’d like to meet up, and I’ll see you soon-

4/11: We’ve had our first Kvällssamtal at Landskrona Foto and four more lie ahead – a series of conversations prompted by themes from the Bourdieu exhibition. I’ll moderate one; they’ll all be great. Obs, these are all in Swedish. We’ll produce a podcast with excerpts from these conversations in collaboration with Radio AF in Lund, but you don’t wanna wait till those come out – see you in Landskrona!

Krig och social omvandling 11/4
Socialt arv och ungdomars kulturengagemang 25/4
Eliterna 2/5
Kvinnor, fotografi och arkivet 9/5
En skola i kris? 15/5

[pictured above: Anna Hedlund (researcher in social anthropology at Lund University) in conversation with Claes JB Löfgren (journalist at Sveriges Television) with moderator Håkan Silverup (doctoral candidate in sociology at Lund University)]

4/9: Richard Barlow’s installation Erebus at Landskrona Foto is finished and guys, it is gorgeous. Here’s what we wrote about it:

Temporary and fragile, Richard Barlow’s chalk drawings illuminate existential and environmental concerns in beautiful site-specific installations. Barlow’s wide-ranging work uses drawing, painting, and installation to investigate issues specific to the history and form of photography and its signification of documentary truth. In a new work for Landskrona Foto, Barlow will create a wall drawing based on his time at the Arctic Circle residency: collaging multiple photographs of the receding pack ice, he first produces apparently seamless documentary images, and then uses them to produce an intricately detailed large-scale chalk drawing. The ephemeral nature of the chalk drawings maps onto the fragility of the natural world; the drawing, like the ice, is threatened by the presence of its viewers, and will eventually disappear.

It’s worth a visit, I promise. See you in Landskrona-

3/8: Happy to see another thoughtful review of my book, this in the AJS by Elise Herrala. She reads the book, as I’d intended, as an inquiry into value in working life more generally, writing that The Work of Art offers insights beyond the art world into the valuation of labor for the nontraditionally employed” and calls the book “an important and much-needed contribution to the neglected question of how artist value their work and time.. a well-written account that paints a nuanced portrait of art as work and pushes forward sociological thinking about valuation, especially in nontraditional employment.” This academic book-writing process is a crazy one – reviews and citations start to come out over a year after the thing is printed – and I’m really grateful to Dr. Herrala for her thoughts and care, and for all who have taken the time to let me know what they think!

3/6: Lots going on here in southern Sweden, especially if you’re interested in photography and knowledge! Why not join us at our conference April 5-6 in Landskrona? Or join us for the opening of Pierre Bourdieu In Algeria: Testimonies of Uprooting at Landskrona Foto the evening of April 6? Or come by some of the five evening seminars we’ve organized? Like I said: lots going on. Hope to see you there!

1/20: Happy to see a kind review of my book by Hannah Wohl appearing in Contemporary Sociology this month! It’s a great overview of the argument chapter by chapter for those of you who might not want to read the whole thing ;). She calls the book “methodologically rigorous, theoretically insightful, and engagingly written” and says that I make a “strong contribution to the sociology of valuation.” Aw, shucks! They couldn’t have picked a better reviewer – Hannah’s own work on creativity is awesome, and I’m grateful for her close reading of my work. Check it out.

12/8: A couple of days from now I’ll be in Helsinki for a symposium on Creativity in Art and Science featuring some pretty amazing folks at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. It’s been put together by Ugo Corte with Susanna Lindberg, Matthias De Groof, & Kirsi Tirri and should be great. Register if you’re planning to come so they know how many snacks to pick up, and see you soon-

10/10: Tomorrow I’ll be in Copenhagen speaking at a conference on Visual Social Sciences and Digital Media Politics at the Center for Anthropological, Political, and Social Theory at the University of Copenhagen. Get in touch if you wanna talk related issues but can’t make it!

10/3: Hey friends. I’m involved in putting together a maybe conference maybe workshop it depends on what you wanna do, all about **Photography as / and knowledge.** I’m pasting the call below. Holler if you want to talk about possibilities. It will be good. Hope to see you there.

Photography as / and knowledge

Photographs are unusually rich objects of inquiry and media for communication. As photographs capture detail indiscriminately, they always contain far more than the photographer intends. Diverse perspectives approach photographs in different ways: they are fine art objects, historical records, and chemical traces all at once, conveying both concrete, stable evidence and possibilities for infinite interpretation. An interdisciplinary research environment has been developing around these issues in recent years at Lund University, with contributions from disciplines across the University as well as community partners.

With an opening April 4th, the Department of Sociology at Lund University in cooperation with Landskrona Foto will host the exhibition Pierre Bourdieu In Algeria: Testimonies of Uprooting. In connection to the exhibition the Department of Sociology will arrange a conference with the purpose of exploring photography as a base for knowledge.

The planned conference aims to build a strong Scandinavian research network around the photographic image, including multidisciplinary academic and artistic perspectives. The design of the conference will be based on participants’ contributions. We welcome proposals for paper presentations, workshops, and other activities for a two-day conference on the photographic image to take place April 5-6 2019 at Landskrona Foto in Landskrona, Sweden. Conference participation is free of charge, but participants will need to cover any necessary travel and accommodation expenses. If you are interested in joining us in April, please submit your idea for participation or an abstract (no more than one page) to Britt-Marie Johansson at


before November 5th 2018. Acceptances and a preliminary program will be available in November.