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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Presenting Work To Fine Art Community – Mary Virginia Swanson

MVS knows her stuff! We listened to her talk yesterday about how to get your work out there, particularly to the fine art community. She talks with such eloquence, ease and a whole heap of knowledge along with years of experience.

Because we are running (writing) on the hoof at PDN’s Photo Expo, I’m going to list a bunch of mainly bullet points from the seminar:

Get your work out there
– as often and as much as possible – whether it’s a finished body of work or not. Create a dialogue about your work. This will help to grow your work.

Portfolio reviews – these are really important in not only getting exposure for your work but getting it seen by the right people in the industry. Their expertise and critique can be paramount in helping you to move forward – and to evolve as an artist. You get the opportunity to have your work reviewed by top editors, publisher’s, corporate art buyers, gallery curators etc. MVS mentioned a whole list of the best portfolio reviews which you can find on her website Including:

Review Santa Fe
, Center, Santa Fe, NM – a tough one to get invited to and/or accepted (only 1 in 7 photographers who apply are accepted) but its one of the top portfolio reviews around. Once the review is over, the Santa Fe100 is listed on their website until the next review. Your name and website are linked from this list for a year. You also get to meet some amazingly inspiring photographers.

Fotofest, Houston, Texas – the ‘grandaddy of portfolio reviews’ (MSV)

Lens Culture, Photo Nola, Photoweek DC…..and more on MVS’s website.

When attending a portfolio review, make sure that they remember you after you have gone. ‘Leave behind’s’ – make up a postcard with an image of your work or a mini book These don’t have to be expensive to put together and can leave a lasting impression, Be as creative as possible to make sure you are remembered. After the review, send a thank you postcard or email embedded with an image to the reviewers. And don’t forget to add your website and contact details!

Your graphic identity: ensure that all your postcards, emails, booklets, website are consistent. This is your branding.

Competitions and grant applications:
don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Get a dialogue going with the organizers as soon as possible. Plan ahead – i.e. keep a diary of comps/grants and the deadline dates.

Don’t just enter comps or apply for grants willy nilly! Do your research before you enter/apply – find out who the juror’s are, what work they like, who won the previous competition/grant etc. Is your work applicable?

Prestigious art fare’s such as AIPAD, in NYC, are key for research purposes alone. There is so much to learn from just walking around and listening to business deals being made between curators and agents or artists. You won’t hear this kind of talk in a gallery (at least not out on the floor!). So, take advantage and listen to the language and, above all, learn. Check out what dealers are looking for. Study price points, size, edition numbers, the paper choices photographs are printed on, installation styles etc.

Your website: this is ‘your voice’ so keep it consistent. As mentioned, this is your branding; this is the face of who you are. Make it clear on your home page what it is you specialize in. A succinct, concise sentence or two can say it all. Make it easy for any photo editors, curators, collectors, corporate buyers etc who may visit your site to see immediately who you are and what you are about. These people don’t have time to search your site for the relevant information that should be right up there in the first place.

If you have a book – don’t forget to promote it on your website!

Prepare for viewing your website on ANY device – how does your site look on an iPad, iPhone, other computer screens (the view can often be compromised on smaller screens)?

Sending out your work to curator’s, fine art buyers, agents, etc: don’t just cold-send work. Call them first to find out what their policy is on accepting work. They may only accept work once a month or once a year even. MSV is a great advocate of picking up the phone! Again, research everyone that you want to approach – know their market. Will your work be relevant to them? Also, find out the name of person (i.e. don’t address an email to anonymous you wish to make contact with at, i.e., a gallery – personalize any communication as often as you possibly can.

Social networking: is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc relevant to your market? If so, do it well, update regularly and keep it consistent.

MVS tip: Art buyers and curators are looking at the following sites for new work. Contact them to see if your work can get featured on these two great sites:
Fraction Magazine

MSV Soundbites: Know your market. Who do you want to target? Plan your career well. Don’t sell for less than you are worth. Research is key. Be consistent. Plan. Communicate what you want. Be present wherever you are. Your branding has to be clear at all times. Be patient. Own your decisions!

MVS’s website is a treasure trove of information for any photographer – however established or not your may be . And, if you ever see her listed on a panel for a portfolio review, then get your 15 minute slot booked with her asap!! It will most definitely be worth it!

Helen Jones

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