me and art shows


TPF Noob!
Feb 1, 2006
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in the middle of north carolina
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James has a tread going about his first art show... Of course it has me waxing nostalgic. I think every photographer ever born, who is a real photographer, has dreamed of being able to make a living selling art prints.
Well I was doing pretty good as a cut rate wedding/ business portrait/ every other oddball job that came alone, kind of photographer. So of course I decided that in addition to not being a good businessman, I should not be a great artist.

In other words I took a summer off to sell art. I spent the winter getting a half a hundred prints ready to sell. Then of course I had to pay for the shows but I had the money that year, so it wasn't going to cost me much... rofl..... think again idiot.....

I spent so much time and energy in the pursuit of great art, that I almost ran myself out of business. When the summer ended, I had sold enough photographs to pay for about half the entrance fees of the shows. So for me art was a bust.

Why would I do that? you ask. I think if failed because I had too much ego and too little talent. Would I go back out on the road with a armful of prints again. I would in a heart beat, but I learned a little from the art show business.

Photography (in my opinion) does not sell like paintings. A painting of a street scene in Rome will most likely sell somewhere. A photograph most likely won't, unless just the right person comes along. Why you ask. Damned if I know but I can tell you what I think.

I think Photography is more personal that painting. A painting is a generic angelic child.... photography has to be MY angelic child... The advice I gave my son in law was, people buy picture of themselves, their families and their friends most often. Followed by special interests. IE sail boats in Boston harbor, but don't try to sell that at a show in Aberdeen miss. If there is an Aberdeen miss.

People will buy an oil landscape of a mountain scene, but it takes a lot longer to sell a photograph of a mountain scene. Why is that you ask? I have no good idea except this maybe.

John says to his wife, "I really like that picture of the lake scene during the sunset thunderstorm on Tuesday."

She says, "Why don't you buy it?"

"Hell I can do that, I have a new digital Nikon camera."

Photographer whispers under his breath, "But will you?"

That I think is part of the problem. Probably a little bit is due to the fact that too many people who can shoot a wedding, think they can also produce fine art. I know I did.

I sold a picture once to a young obviously gay man and two ladies who were with him. It was a picture made in an old house with a ragged window. On the window sill sat a sardine can with cigarette butts in it. A lit cigarette and a vintage wine bottle. The only reason I know it was a good bottle of wine, is the woman who gave me the empty bottle told me to be sure to show the label, since it was a special bottle.

It was to me a study in contrasts. To the guy who bought it, it was a joke for a co worker who wouldn't quit smoking in the office. It was a long time ago... I think that convinced me that photography was more personal than paintings. It has to mean something to the buyer on more than a visual level to sell. In other words people most often buy pictures of themselves, their family and their friends. Maybe of a four masted schooner but more likely they want a painting of that.

Am I bitter hell no. I think I have it figured out. Now that we have the net... Shoot an unusual picture, post the shot on the net as a proof, and take orders from home... Just like bug does in my soap opera...

Or just forget the whole thing.

Now if I was James. I would print those portraits, maybe tone them to look old or something else tricky, take them out. show them, then make pictures on the spot, post the proof on the net and take orders. Since it's a local show he shouldn't have any trouble getting a check mailed to him.

I have spent $100's of dollars on this guys work. I go to Moab twice a year, and I have new Canon SLR.....yes I could try to take the same thing he does.....but I cant. I spend the money, for his vision, his art.
I'm rounding on the same small number of festivals mainly for fun, not for profit. I just enjoy the vibe of festivals; everyone is happy, most folks will at least stand around and chat with you about what you've done, even if they don't reach for the wallet. ;)

I'm sort of in-between, because of the alt stuff that I put out there. I KNOW most people won't leave thinking, "Well, I can go home and do that". I've had repeat customers, won festival prize money, had some supportive people telling me they're glad to see me out there, and so on. It's a nice bit of ego-stroking, validation, etc - in addition to being a good way to unload a bunch of prints that would otherwise just pile up at home. :lol: I am happy to make enough money to cover my costs and let me buy more materials to keep going.

I would never quit the day job to sell my work. Firstly, I am a hobbyist who still considers herself a student of the craft. There is always more to learn, more to read, more to try. Secondly, festivals and shows are LOT of work. I never want it to seem like work. I meet very serious-minded festival vendors out there, who speak with great knowledge about being a festival vendor, and I wonder how much passion remains for their craft. I will probably pick up more festivals when I'm not working full time - I know how to get the stuff out there, but I can't be overly concerned with the "hustle" part of it. It's just not me. :)

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