The “Why?” Statement – guidelines

Recently I have been reaching out to photographers I admire and asking them to write for our “Why?” series. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but once these talented photographers start trying to express the obvious in words, they tend to get bogged down.

Today I thought I would try to explain why this statement is important and try to help bring some clarification to the process.

Honestly the “Why?” statement is a thinly veiled Artist Statement. If you don’t know what that is, it is a statement that can express your ideas for you if you are unavailable or don’t want to talk about your photographs yourself. We all enjoy taking photographs of toys, it’s a fun hobby, but talking about the process behind it is often difficult and requires some introspection. It is best to get this thought process started now, before you find yourself needing it.

The “Why?” document needs to go beyond the obvious and reveal more about you (the photographer behind those awesome toy shots) that will help the viewer understand why you and your work are special. So lets get started with a few do’s and don’ts.

Do

  • Keep it simple
  • Talk about your process
  • Tell us why your work is unique
  • Write it in the first person
  • Tell us how you feel about your work
  • Briefly talk about your history if its is relevant to your art
  • Talk about what this work represents to you
  • Talk about who influences you and why
  • Keep it brief

Dont

  • Talk down to your audience
  • Tell your viewer how to feel about your work
  • Introduce complex ideas
  • Make obscure references no one will understand
  • Get technical
  • Don’t compare yourself to other great artists

I realize all of this is a lot of work and will probably force you to think about issues in your work that you haven’t considered before; just ask Vesa. But this is an extremely useful exercise on so many levels. If you are planning on selling your photographs, applying to art school, approaching a gallery or if you have your work published in a magazine, this activity will prepare you to talk about your work in a meaningful way.

No matter what stage you are with your photography, even if you view yourself as only a hobbyist, I hope you will take the time to write a “Why?” statement. I realize that this will not be easy, but I really think it is a valuable exercise; one in which you may even discover something new about yourself. And if you do complete one, we will happily publish it here on the blog for all to see.

Happy writing my friends!

~ xxSJC

If you have any questions, just ask!

If you have done this before, how did it go? Would you be willing to share it with us?

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