The advice from John and Suzanne is right on the money. Be prepared to be flexible, adaptable and also grow a thick skin!! There will be many No's before there are YES's.... The reason being that this community has taken a beating financially over recent years. They will pick and choose what's right for them. Taking a gamble on an unknown is also not something that happens very often anymore unless you are well connected. Most galleries or art curators have to see what you are capable of first, and as you are gradually able to make inroads, and demonstrate successes, galleries may then start to see you are serious, and take you on. It might be part of a group show at first or for a limited number of images. Or a juried competition. Over time your name will become familiar to these people. Try alternative avenues like state and local art fairs. Adaptability is key here.
Presentation for interviews also varies as others have said. My limited experience so far down this path has had me having to create CD's of print scans and provide actual mounted prints for show. It depends from each individual gallery or curator to another. Like I said, be flexible, and do what the gallery/jury requirements ask for. Often times these days, there are fees to even enter juried shows with no guarantee of success.
Other things I am seeing is that more and more places want narrative for the images they show. There has to be a background and a context behind the images you make that drives you to make them in the first place. Explain that with a cover letter and artists statement. Be passionate about what you are doing and why, and more importantly, be prepared to talk through this in detail during your presentation to the gallery. It has to come over as a complete package.... Sell it as such. Lastly and not least, a well established photographer once told me...... "Don't quit your day job!" YMMV.... good luck.
I own a small gallery in the Ottawa, Ontario area. We sell quite a bit of photography, so I do have some first hand knowledge.
First always make an appointment and see about their requirements. Not only is it the polite way to go, if the gallery is busy they will not have the time to look at your work.
We will only look at work that is framed and ready to go. We also found that we cannot sell many digital prints.
Yes we do charge 50% but running a gallery is bloody expensive. In addition of the usual lights, heat, etc, the insurance on the art costs an arm and a leg.
I wish you the best of luck. Just be prepared and show only quality prints.
Thanks everyone for your feedback - it is all very helpful. This is all sounding about like what I expected to hear. My father was a water color painter and I had some exposure to galleries many years ago. First things first, complete my portfolio and then start contacting galleries. In the mean time, I need to start canvasing the galleries in the area (well over 100) and see where opportunites are. I sure hope I don't need to do the art fair circuit.
Also - I have "day job" which is why I can afford to do my photography. I'm hoping that others will enjoy what I do and I can start to get some outside funds to help pay for my "hobby".
Thanks again to everyone.
That will be the biggest stumbling block. Galleries are not in business to help amateurs pay for their hobbies. They want to represent professionals, which means people who do this full time. Thats part of having a commitment to the work that they require. The exception to this being people who teach art; though they 'work' for a living, its work in the arts.
Originally Posted by Dan Dozer
I only have experience with a few galleries.
That is - I've exhibited in one that was absolutely hopeless and I've observed how a 'real' gallery operates.
I know it costs money to run a gallery and I'm sure they are looking for work that is ready to show. Obviously, the easier your work is, the happier you are (unless you're a logger or something), BUT...
the two girls (manager and assistant) in the gallery jumped at the chance to exhibit my prints and then when it came to the crunch, did next to nothing!
The most important thing is to have good presentation but also to make sure that buyers are invited! My experience was not great as I had a large crowd, but it was about 90% people I'd invited personally, friends and family. Wait, it was more like 95%.
Then I looked around again the other day and noticed (too late) they also sold candles and soaps and T-shirts. What was I thinking?
In the end, the gallery got a big fat percentage of nothing.
A lesson learned...
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If they sold nothing, they made nothing, unless they charged you a fee to mere;y exhibit. You should beware of places that do that. Legitimate galleries charge a commission on sales, not a fee to exhibit. That way they HAVE to try to sell your work or they don't make money either.
Originally Posted by Sethasaurus
Originally Posted by chriscrawfordphoto
there are lots of galleries that charge a fee to exhibit, and they are legitimate.
sometimes they are called " vanity galleries " .
in the boston area there was a space called the zeitgeist gallery
and he showed work of an awful lot of people who had the $$ and didn't have
( or didn't WANT ) traditional gallery representation.
They were working on commission only - 25% - which was quite agreeable to me.
Originally Posted by chriscrawfordphoto
It was quite puzzling that they made no effort apart from printing a copy of my artist's statement and inviting about 5 people.. It really is a puzzle that I spent every ounce of energy on this right up to the opening (to the point where I was weak with hunger) and they didn't adjust the lighting or even hang one solitary picture.
Again, a lesson learned!