Gatecrashing the ‘what is art’ party

Thanks to Shelly, James and maths, I made a resolution to gate crash the perceived ‘what is art’ party. Yep, a resolution that I didn’t know I wanted to make. On Sunday the 11th of February I ticked off that resolution by displaying LEGO photography at the Little Creatures Brewery Art Carnival.

Does that mean now that accomplished the pledge I made to myself for this year I can spend the rest of it with my feet up drinking beer? Probably not.

The notion of exhibiting toy photography, in particular LEGO photography, doesn’t sound like much of a declaration for a goal to achieve. But slipping photographs of LEGO into an art carnival filled with paintings, sculptures and photography of more “traditional” subject matter was.

The before

I agonised over the choices of photos to include! Sure, I knew what photos had been well received at previous exhibitions. But they were for LEGO nerds! Would people outside our LEGO photography world like the same stuff? Would they even get it? And would they understand and appreciate it enough to put their hand in their pocket? Surrounded by other forms of art, would LEGO photography be considered art?

Beer and a shot
It’s everything that I’ve got
At the end of the world
Please don’t let it stop
Frenzal Rhomb – Beer and a Shot

The day

I arrived early enough to set up and give me time to wander around the other exhibitors’ displays before the gates opened. You see, I was also unsure about what prices to put on my photos. Sure, I knew what my printing and mounting costs were, and I had to at the very least cover them. But I didn’t know what price would be both acceptable to the punters, and acceptable to my inner bookkeeper! I didn’t want to appear too expensive, nor did I want to appear cheap, compared to the company I was exhibiting with.

After scouting the other exhibitors and gauging the price ranges of pieces on display, I had a ballpark figure to attach to my prints, without appearing too expensive or too cheap, and being a number that I was comfortable with.

As I was scribbling that number under each print, I was approached by a punter. Hang on! It wasn’t even 10 o’clock? Were they letting punters in early? No, it was another exhibitor. We chatted about my prints and about their works. We talked about exhibiting our work, the amazing setting, the inclement clouds on the horizon, where we both had traveled from, and then it happened…

The first

A sale! Before the gates had opened, money exchanged hands and with my first customer’s consent, a little sold sticker placed below the print, keeping my display intact. And this happened again before 10 o’clock!

As the gates opened, punters streamed in, perused the art hanging on the walls, chatted with exhibitors and snaked their ways through the brewery. Two more visitors purchased. One visitor asked if they could purchase another print of one that had sold earlier. And one visitor asked if they could purchase a print of a photo from my Instagram feed that I hadn’t included to display.

The acceptance

There was an awkward moment when I disregarded the question “Are you the artist?” from a punter, assuming they must’ve been directing it towards someone else. Maybe displaying my photos in an Art Carnival I should accept that moniker?

Gatecrashing the 'what is art' party
Gatecrashing the ‘what is art’ party

The learning

So, what did I learn that I can pass on to you?

Print! There’s something truly satisfying about seeing your own shots printed and mounted. Even if it will never leave your home, I encourage you to print something and hang it on a wall. You might be surprised by the reactions it gets!

It might sound cliché, but the first thing I learned is to have the balls to go for it. It could’ve been so easy for me to scroll past the initial announce of the Art Carnival. I could’ve read it but dismissed it as something that was beyond me. Yes, it was daunting putting myself out there, but it was so worth it.

Work out what price you would like to make from a sale, taking into account overheads like printing and mounting, and then research what others are asking. You might be surprised to find that your comfortable number is too low compared to others. Or it might be too high?

Under light, that I have never seen
Go to the light, reach up to the beam
Under light, under light
Reach up to the sun or you can run
Kyuss – Phototropic

I really wish I knew what would sell and what wouldn’t. But I didn’t so I can’t give you an insight into what LEGO photography appeals to those outside the LEGO photography world. The only advice i can give on this is variety is a good way to gauge what’s popular. I included prints that had done well at LEGO photography shows, I included photos I liked, and I included photos that were a bit of a long shot. Next time I’ll be better equipped to choose what to display.

The next

Wait! Did I just say next time? Yep. Another thing I’ve learned is that taking that initial plunge makes it less daunting to plunge again.

If the opportunity comes my way again, I’ll jump at it!

Thanks to all my friends and family that popped in and said hello. To those who liked what I had hanging on the walls, or put their hands in their pockets, thank you so.

– Brett

Have you ever put your toy photography out there for the public to see? If so, what was your experience like? Or are you now thinking about gatecrashing the ‘what is art’ party too?

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7 Comments

    • brett_wilson

      Yes! Do it! I wasn’t sure how LEGO photography would be received at a “traditional” art carnival, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m sure you work would be appreciated too!

  1. What a great experience, your prints look absolutely awesome!

    Good advice indeed… I have a few prints of my work on my wall at work and at home but I should print more often, and rotate the prints.

    “I really wish what would sell and what wouldn’t.”
    That’s an observation I also have, nit in the selling part b.t.w. I wouldn’t even dream about selling anything; but what I do notice that I am just one person who looks at my own work, just like others look at my work (the only difference is I made it). Sometimes I have a photo I am REALLY excited about… and then the world goes ‘mweh’ and sometimes I have a picture I don’t really care about and everyone thinks it’s absolutely great haha… It’s probably a good thing that this isn’t my living… I would be broke in a second 😛

    • brett_wilson

      Ah, the agony of trying to figure out what people will like?! I know exactly what you mean Dwaas!
      I went into this with a selection of photos, some I thought might be liked, some I wasn’t sure about. Some sold, some didn’t. But I was none the wiser as to why. I guess there’s no way to predict personal tastes?

  2. I have found that lego with some sort of food stuffs seems to sell fairly well for me. Also those shots that are way out there – like my Lenny raptor on a bike. Apparently there was an Iron Man race happening in town and I sold several prints of Lenny riding the ocotillo spiked limb. I have found over the past year that variety is key. I had 30 prints, 2 of each of 15 different shots. After a year of selling each Saturday I have about 10 left. They don’t sell as often as I’d like – but when someone adores them they usually buy a few – and the smiles I get from folks is well worth setting them out on display. Always good to hear someone else having a good time while representing our rather fun and odd art.😎👍

  3. Congratulations Brett!
    2 of my personal dreams/goals with my photography is to have some up in a (local) cafe and to sell prints one day. Not so much for the profits but to see the responses of people to them and whichever way it goes, it will be a fantastic experience I’m sure!

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