San Diego – Downtown
Today starts something new I am going to try out. I have a lot to say and I wasn’t sure where to say it but I think it would be best put here. Maybe I should just stick to the Pretty Pictures, maybe this will alienate some but this is me and my thoughts about Photography or the Photography business so I should keep them in one spot. Don’t worry, plenty of pretty pictures to come. If I find it offends too many, I’ll give in and put them (my thoughts) somewhere else more appropriate.
The Art of Selling Art – Artist Angst (part 1 in a series)
I read a blog post the other day by someone I follow on Twitter. He was explaining what was success for an artist and how it wasn’t about Likes or Sales but about the Art and the making of art. Which of course is true, and I’ve seen this come up very often as “Artists” of any genre talk. But I deal in photography and so did he so I’ll keep it there.
What I see so often is this Angst. The inability to put Art and Sales into perspective and it causes much worry and hand wringing and for some reason… I just don’t feel any of it because in my mind I know they aren’t the same thing. To me it’s very simple. “I make art as an artist, I sell art as a business” Too often I see people trying to sell art a an artist which is the root of the angst…I will simply tell you this; Don’t
The angst stems from feeling that you will let Sales drive your Art. You will create art in a way that the end sale will be the root of your art. And of course this does happen but it doesn’t have to at all
I’ve been called a Sellout, I’ve been told “You don’t create art for art’s sake” but that’s just from people that have no clue who I am or what I am about. I have never – except for commercial work – shot anything I didn’t want to or in a way that I didn’t want to…period. I make art as an artist.
Now that doesn’t mean I sell art like an artist. This is where the difference comes in. I sell art as a business. because it IS my Business, It is my livelihood. I don’t have a Day job, a spouse that supports me while I “play” or a retirement from the post office. This is it, this is all I do. As I say on my about me page. “I shoot because It is all I have…all I know…all I can…all I think…all I dream…all I…See” So I have to think about this as a business.
Of course I could think of it as “Art only” which I did for many years, in which I sold about 5 pieces a year – So much for survival. Once I started thinking of the selling side as a Business, my sales climbed to about 150 a year which rewards me endlessly with the satisfaction that people like what I do. It also rewards me with, even at that, Poverty level wages. Still work to be done.
So do sales drive my art? No, Like I said I still shoot what I want and how I want. But that doesn’t mean I put up for sale things in that manner. I still need to be conscious of the market because I am a business. It can’t be left up to whimsy as any of my images may.
I have about 5,000 images in my portfolio, 700 of which I sell. I think with some careful curating that could be whittled down to about 400. So why don’t I just sell them all? Quite simply, not all of them are things people want in my market. So I don’t, I’m still very happy creating them but they simply won’t sell in my market so this is where Sales drive things. They have to, it’s business.
Does it have zero effect on how I shoot? I wouldn’t say that. It does have some effect but not in a way you might think. In my market, Black & White images don’t sell. I would easily say It is 95:5. If my market was loft owners in NYC I would say that ratio would be completely opposite. But it’s not. I mostly sell to the West Coast. So does that I mean I don’t shoot Black & White? Nope, shoot it a lot. Love shooting it, love making conversions of great images to what may be even better images in Mono. Nothing has changed. But what is different is what I will put up for sale. I’m not going to load my catalog with Black & White image because that’s called insanity. I DO offer them for sale but in a reduced number compared to Color images.
Something else I know from sales; People like “Objects” in the images. Whether that is a Pier or a Bench, a Bicycle or Surf Boards. If an image has an object it is more likely to be a big seller. So I will seek out and shoot such objects. OH YOU SELLOUT! No, because I love shooting those objects, they and shopping carts and pay phones are some of my favorite things to shoot. If it was the Latest Trend to shoot Turds on a Sidewalk, I wouldn’t cuz I don’t want to. THAT is being sellout. Why not, instead of thinking, “F that, I’m not shooting anything just cuz people want that”. Why not instead take it as an artistic challenge. “How can I take this object and show it in my vision?” “I like this object how would my view be different?”
Shooting for yourself
One of the things I hear so often from photographers is “I just want to shoot for myself”. So? Do it. I just can’t understand what stops people from doing so…except themselves. If you are a portrait or wedding shooter shooting for a client, you have to shoot for them. That’s your job. But you do it in a style that is all about you because that is (hopefully) why they hired you. But I just don’t see why that stops photographers from shooting for themselves. Yes, I get time constraints of working. But I’m sorry I just don’t get it. So it either comes down to just feeling guilty about doing it or they don’t really care about it as much as they say (No passion)
Tim Wallace the great Commercial Automotive shooter always takes time for personal projects and even those can turn into things he sells or exhibits (Darwin) but he would take time even if they didn’t.
Create Art as An Artist, Sell art as a Business
So I know I will still be called a sellout. I’m fine with that. I know that I HAVE TO MAKE A LIVING, there is no choice here. And this is how I choose to do it and If I chose to, this is how you have to do it.
If you just want to make art for art’s sake then DO THAT. That is what you must do. But if you need to sell it, do it as a business would…because it’s different and when you KNOW it is different, that is when the Angst goes away
I’m extremely honored to represent B & H Photo and Video as their Landscape Photographer in The Canon Lens Experience.
I can’t thank B & H and Canon enough for their support over the years
Joshua Tree National Park
This is what I went to Joshua Tree National Park for, The Milky Way…The Stars. The rest was delicious gravy.
Joshua Tree NP is a really tough place to shoot the Milky Way, Palms Springs is directly south and that is exactly where the largest nebula of the Milky way is this time of year. But that’s ok, it’s still such a magical place to shoot at night, great forms and textures. It was one of the best days and nights I’ve had all year. I smiled all the way home…and I still smile to look at the image from the day. It’s my home