Getting Gallery Representation

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Shangheye, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    I have built up a portfolio of images and I am now ready to go out there and seek representation. What advice would you give on the following:

    - I have portfolios in various formats and genres, though much of my work is people/street oriented with some abstract work. What is best for a presentation...a consistent theme/project, a consistent format, or perhaps a portfolio dedicated to a particular format(s)?

    - What is the best size (I will be printing FB) to print and should it be backed or prints in sleeves?

    - Which size of print sells best?

    - How do you approach the galleries? Arrange appointments, or cold call?

    - What should I expect in terms of a deal (i.e. % commission etc)

    - I assume that I would print in limited editions or is it best to print as I go and forgo editions for higher sales (I know that is the impossible question).

    I have some provenance (international competitions I have one, Newspaper articles, a show in Shanghai etc)...should the work be accompanied by such a CV/bio to be shared?

    I would appreciate all the advice I can get.

    Thanks in advance. Kal
     
  2. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    Never go cold. Get an appointment or they may never speak to you. Have a consistent theme, the galleries will want to have a show of the work, so the work will need to make sense together. Most places will want to see portfolio sized prints, even if the actual work to go up will be bigger. Have the images on a CD so they can see it again later. Don't expect them to make a decision while you are there. They will have their own commission rates. There is no size that sells best. People will buy what you show if they like it. Have a CV and an Artist Statement prepared. Don't take a rejection personally, they are in the business of selling. I have a documentary of Sally Mann where she is rejected from a scheduled show because they don't think it will sell. It happens. Good luck.
     
  3. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    Some additional thoughts.
    Check out galleries yourself first. Look at what they have now and decide if it fits what you are doing. If they have a lot of very high end photography, people may pass right over yours. If they don't have any photography, talk to the owner/manager and see if they want to expand into that. As Greg Davis says, make an appointment.
    Expect to give the gallery 40% of the final selling price. This is pretty standard, but varies with some galleries. This means, price your photos considering that. Don't however, sell them cheaper yourself, at least not in the same area. The gallery will reject you if you are undercutting them. Don't be afraid to put a higher price on your work. It shows you value it and customers will too. If a customer sees a print for a low price they will think it isn't worth much. They go as much or more on price than on good art. You will find that many don't know what is good, so they go on price or recommendation.
    I sell only finished, matted and framed prints. I'm not one to do a bunch of 8X10's, 11
    x14's, 16X20's, etc. just mounted and let the customer take his choice. That's me, many do that and it works for them. I just get no enjoyment turning out prints like a machine.

    Just IMHO.
     
  4. phc

    phc Member

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    Where are you hoping to exhibit Kal? Do I gather you're in Shanghai? Things vary greatly depending on the location of the gallery. What is normal in London or New York would be unusual in smaller cities.

    A theme is important. Unless you have a reputation and many years of recognised works behind you and you're in the business of doing a retrospective, gallerists always want to see some theme, or a common thread, in the work you present. Select a theme carefully and make sure all the pictures relate.

    Cheers, Paul.
     
  5. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    I'm in Brussels, but I have a significant archive of material from China when I lived in Shanghai and made it into the national press there. Clearly a theme seems to be the theme, and I had hoped to move on from my China work and focus on Belgium more. I do have a collection of work based around the theme of "Tales Of Urban Solitude" which is significant (by that I mean in the order of 20 images), and more importantly is all Analog, something I would like to be the basis of any gallery work exhibited. I kind of want to make a break from the China images at a personal level (though given the interest culturally that may prove difficult)...thanks for the advice and happy to hear more from all comers.

    So, as an intial contact, should it be by phone, or letter with some contact prints requesting an appointment?

    Rgds, Kal
     
  6. phc

    phc Member

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    Phone them up, make sure you speak to the right person, make an appointment to visit with a portfolio.

    Cheers, Paul.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    do research on galleries, find one that seems to show
    work of your genre.
    don't drop in cold, send a card/ letter of introduction,
    follow up with a phone call,
    ask for an "audience" with the person who reviews portfolios.
    have everything solid, same matting, same mat size.
    try to have "groupings" of images that go well together.
    show about 15 or 20 images, or have a portfolio/book of smaller images to review.
    bring and leave behind a cd of your images.

    galleries usually take about 40-60% commission.

    good luck!
     
  8. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    Thanks guys. Would you say that going down the route of one film format is best, or maybe 10 images of each film format, along a certain theme? K
     
  9. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    In my experience no one will care what film format you use, but they will be very interested in your "body of work" so keep it to themes. Very concise, judiciously edited.

    Less is more. Better to give them a taste and leave them wanting than to over-saturate them. Just let them know that you are giving them a representation of your work and that you can always provide more should they request it.
     
  10. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    Thanks Bosaiya. I had thought that a total of 20 images would be as far as I would go (also the time that will take me in the darkroom to get exhibition quality prints will be significant). I like the idea of teasers...maybe 10 of each format, based on a theme. Thanks all. K
     
  11. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There are also a number of other ways to get your work in front of people. The work should be cohesive, and consistent. You should decide on the size of the prints, and whether you want to edition them or not ahead of time. Some people eition different sizes... I can't get my head around that, so I've offered mine only in an edition size of 10 for 20x24 inch prints, mounted and matted.

    Bear in mind... I haven't sold any! So, take this advice for what it's worth! :tongue:

    You need to do your research and identify galleries that would be a good fit for you. You might think about attending portfolio reviews. This costs money, but so does flying all over Europe or the states or wherever to meet each gallery separately. Although, it's full now, PhotoLucida does reviews in Portland, OR every other year. It's coming up in April. Likewise, Fotofest in Houston has four days of reviews every other year. It will happen again in March 2010. Google it, and you can find information. PhotoLucida also does an online review process called Critical Mass each fall. If you get into the top 175, then your work will be seen by 200 reviewers... gallerists, curators, publishers.

    It helps to get your work into juried shows as well. Pick juried competitions that have a juror who would respond favorably to your work, and if you can find local and regional shows, you'll save on shipping when you have to send a print for display. Google Mary Virginia Swanson, and follow her blog. She is a "marketing fine art photography" guru. You might also keep an eye of the Texas Photographic Website for opportunities.

    I realize that most of the sources are U.S. centric, but some of them may have leads or links to European opportunities as well.

    It's almost a full time job... getting the work out there. It takes time, patience, a lot of rejection, but if you are confident in the work, you will find with some persistence, that you will get it out there.

    It all costs money, of course, and time, and it can be daunting, and the rejections can be disheartening, but I have found the process to be satisfying, and I have a show right now on view as a result of these types of efforts, and another for the summer with a commercial gallery. (Though they may be teetering on the brink... I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic through this, erm... small "bump" in the economy.)
     
  12. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    ...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 10, 2009
  13. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    Thanks for all the links and advice Suzanne. I have come to realise how daunting it is. The first stage definitely has to be my choices for the portfolio, and then getting it printed to a standard that I am happy with. France seems to be the photographic Mecca here in Europe, and I am tempted to visit Paris to check out a few of the galleries there too, if only to understand where my style fits in. There are definitely opportunities to exhibit in Brussles and Antwerp, but the number of galleries are limited.

    I have enetered some juried shows, and one of the jurors in a show I did well in was a rep from an Antwerp gallery called Gallery 51 (it also has online listings). That is what energised me to do someting about it. The problem is that this is not my day job, and so I am forced to do this in my spare time (not the way to do it as you say).

    I appreciate the time you took to respond, and I will definitely follow up on the links and advice you have provided!

    Rgds, Kal
     
  14. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    It IS a full time job! Don't think otherwise or it isn't going to happen.

    Many, if not all galleries are in the tank right now with the current world economy, so you might think about waiting until things start looking up. Better to see someone when they're not in survival mode.

    Also... if lighting strikes and you do in fact get someone to take you on, don't consider them if they take more than 50%. That is the norm. Anyone taking more is simply taking advantage of your desire to have representation. There are 1000's of photographers looking for the holy grail. Galleries get many mailers from hopefuil shooters every day and most just get transferred to the garbage. You've really got to be a cut above these days to get a call back. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try though. Just expect A LOT of rejection. That too is the norm.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2009
  15. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    Thanks Bill, I have to wait, given the fact that i have not even selected the protfolio yet, but I do see the merit of your advice Vs the economy. I will Keep at it despite rejections, since I want it to BE my full time job ;-))

    K
     
  16. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    That's the spirit to have. Best to you.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    As a practising lawyer, I can assure you that it is possible to have a more than full time job :smile:! Or two or more jobs, that together are way more than a full time job.

    (I'm sure that many others here have similar levels of demands on them).

    It is possible to have another full time commitment, and still put enough energy and time and commitment into a career in photography, but it will stretch you thin, and your ability to do so will definitely be time limited.

    I wish you the best of luck!

    Matt

    P.S. I just have to share this anecdote. I attended a seminar given by a woman who specializes in helping lawyers interested in changing the directions of their careers - either within the practise of law, or outside it. As such, she had contacts from a lot of legal and legally related employers who were looking to hire. She related receiving an enquiry from one particularly forthright employer who were looking for a part-time lawyer - just 40 hours per week :D:surprised:.
     
  18. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    Heh! That is funny Matt.....thanks for the best wishes. K
     
  19. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yeah... without the regular paycheck... :tongue:

    Let's see, my non-paying full time jobs... mom, housekeeper, fine art photographer. And my paying a little part-time job... portrait photographer! :surprised:
     
  20. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    ....I was thinking workshops as a side earner...but here, I am surrounded by people who want courses on how to turn on their digital compacts..:rolleyes: