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Photography Exhibit Basics

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography
 
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A famous American humorist, Evan Esar was once quoted as saying, “Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration, and inspiration”. The life of an artist, a digital photographer to be specific, is such that tons of planning, money and sweat can pave the path for success. The steps in which you take to establish yourself can be spontaneous and exciting or patient and well thought out. Given the current economic affairs, there is still room for your dreams and goals. Starting specifically with concrete goals is a great sprint into your career. Let’s start with how to book an exhibit, sell your work and get your name out there.

1.Find your theme
When starting to plan your first exhibit, you should research your target audience and pick a theme from your work that they would best enjoy. Remember, you are not just a photographer but also a businessperson. Artists need to be organized enough to focus on a particular theme so that potential buyers and visitors can understand the concepts, identify with them and make sense of what’s being presented. Treat your exhibit like a museum which is neatly divided into categories and topics , rather than random images. Eventually, more established artists are able to have more control over the kinds of pieces they want to showcase. It might be a matter of “swallowing your pride” but in the beginning, you have to crawl before you walk.

2. Start Small
Try any and every place where you are able to put up your work. Some great places to start are your local cafés, libraries, schools, restaurants and various public and private places where you do not have to pay to exhibit. You never know who might attend even the smallest of gatherings, so it is important to pitch your work and promote the show. Word of mouth and guerilla marketing techniques (e.g., hanging up posters on every corner if need be) have been key to any start up.

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3. Build your Curriculum Vitae
A good CV is essential for promoting yourself in a few words that people will remember you by. Make sure the things that matter really stand out and use bullet points to make your points clear. Don’t be too wordy and never lie. Write out tangible and concrete tasks you have accomplished in your education, experience, previous shows, and more. As a photographer, a website and portfolio are simply expected so that people have easy access to assess your work.

4. Get to know your supplier
Build your network of artist friends so that you have connections as to how cheaply you can source your supplies. Allowing you to know the people in these organizations may give you access to wholesale prices for mattes, frames, paints, and more. Make a note of all the local art supply stores, framers, matt cutters, galleries, foundations and museums to help you in this direction.

5. Choose your best work to show
Make sure you preserve and present your artwork perfectly when going to showcase it to the world. Even if you feel you have done a brilliant work of art, do not display it if it has tears, scratches, minor nicks, and slight details that people might criticize you on. Do remember that if you are asking high prices for your art, your customers will be asking for a high level of perfection from corner to corner. People also take great pride in the works that they create so don’t let that get overlooked for some bad quality that could have been prevented.

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6. Getting a known gallery to sponsor and/or represent you
Especially important are the galleries in which you want to showcase. The more you attend their events and know the managers, the easier it will be for you to book a show of your own. While vying for their attention, persistence is key, as rejection should be a common and forgettable part of the ‘pitching’ process.

7. Prepare an Invitation List for your showing
The time has come to really make or break your show. By building up a good mailing list and sending out invitations, you will be prepared for the opening. Many times, galleries themselves will also have databases, which will be a nice addition to your own. Without a proper mailing list, your efforts could be wasted, as people might not show up through word of mouth.

And finally…
The main goal after your photograph is ready to go to the market is to become a good businessperson. Even the most talented artists do not get the full rewards when they do not market themselves properly. Some great books to read up on are “Art Marketing Handbook”, “Marketing Art: A Handbook for the artist and art dealer”, and “Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers”. After reading them, you will feel much more prepared and confident to tackle marketing. Not only will you have learned tons about your own field of photography but also tons about business.

~Zahid Javali

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