Not so long ago, the Holy Grail for gaining recognition as a fine arts photographer was the gallery route. The practical reality, however, is that exhibits require making prints, matting and framing: all very expensive especially when there is no guarantee for a sale.
To share her views and experience on the subject, we turn once again to fine arts photographer and TCI instructor, Gina Genis.
(TCI) How do you feel about the current importance of galleries and are there other more cost effective ways to keep your work before the public?
(GG) The changes in technology have revised our society into one that is an open exchange of information through the internet. The need to print your photographs has diminished. You can post images on your personal website, Facebook, or any number of photo hosting sites like Flickr. They have the potential to be viewed by thousands of eyes. I never print my work unless it is going to a show. There is currently a trend in galleries to not frame the photographs. This is probably due to the collapse of the economy. Less work is selling, so more cutbacks are being made to keep expenses down.
It used to be that a museum or gallery was the only venue the public had to seeing works of art. So are they now obsolete? I don’t think so. A museum serves a purpose to set the standard for choosing the best of the best work to display. It also is responsible for recognizing changing trends that define a shift in the direction of art history. The role of a gallery owner is to match collectors with artists. We still need these systems in the fine art world.
Museums and galleries are putting more effort into showing exhibits online so they can reach farther than just those living within their geographical location. This leads to more opportunities for artists. They have greater clout to bring important collectors to their websites than an individual artist does.
It is essential for an artist to have their own website as well. The first thing a curator asks is: “What’s your web address?” Your website is your business card, and it is the cheapest way of showing the public who you are. My fine art website is http:// my.photoshelter.com/ginagenis
(TCI) In the venues away from your home base, what is your approach to having your work selected to be exhibited?
(GG) I am asked on a regular basis to show my work in different parts of the country and even the world. Having an exhibit away from your home is a very expensive ordeal. Therefore, I carefully check off a mental list of requirements before proceeding.
(TCI) What do you do to promote your work?
(GG) In today’s world, one must be involved with self-promotion. I use all available avenues to keep my name and work out there. Using the internet, I post one item per day on Facebook, tweet a few times a week, and write a blog story a few times a week. I also teach in-the-field workshops (www.ginagenis.com), and online photography courses through The Compelling Image - online photography school.
Lecturing to college students allows me to guide new talent, and creates interest in my work. Jurying art competitions is a fun way to be in contact with new people who may buy my work or take a workshop from me. And most important is the face to face contact of showing up at gallery and museum openings. Even with the world getting smaller, and having hundreds of “friends” you have never met on Facebook, personal contact is still the best means to building relationships that lead to exhibits and sales.
What many people do not understand about being a fine artist is that it is an 18 hour a day business. I normally sleep only 6 hours per night. Actually making photographs is just a small portion of what it takes to be successful. The majority of it is networking, bookkeeping, and self promotion. An extremely disciplined work ethic is essential. I was once asked by a business person what I did all day without a job. After taking a huge pause so as not to react to the implied insult, I explained a typical day hour by hour. By the time I was finished, the person was flabbergasted at how much more work I did compared to him. I was able to leave him with a new found respect for artists and a convert to the world of museums and galleries.
(TCI) Any advice about this for beginners?
(GG) My first piece of advice would be to find a mentor - someone you admire as a person and an artist. He/she has walked the road before you and can help you avoid the mistakes made. A mentor can also introduce you to other people who can help your career. Other suggestions would be: