If you’re only taking photos for fun, this post is not for you. If you’re happy sharing your images to social media, this post is not for you. If photography is your creative release from the drudgery of day-to-day life, then this post is definitely not for you.
But…maybe your like me and you’re driven to take your work farther.
I’ve tried to keep my photographic dreams to a minimum for the last seven years. I dreamed big with my first major body of work, ultimately I crashed and burned and paid the price with a five-year sabbatical from all photography. I credit toys (and my kids) for bringing me back into the world of photography that I love.
Now that I have this new body of work I want to do something with it beyond posting to social media. I want to try to sell my work, not because I think its saleable, but because that is what I’ve always done. This is the business my husband and I have been engaged in for nearly 30 years ago – we create stuff and we sell it.
The Gallery Experience
So far my success rate has been rather uneven. In 2015 I was privileged to exhibit my work at the Bryan Ohno Gallery. The show looked great, but the sales were non-existent. Since I wasn’t selling the work myself it was hard to understand the viewers reaction to the work. Not only did I not sell anything, I didn’t learn anything.
Fast forward to the fall of 2015 and we are back in the gallery for another group show. I didn’t want to repeat my earlier mistakes, although honestly, I didn’t really know what those might have been. For this show I created a completely different set of images. While the show was sparsely attended, the gallery owner was able to make a sale. This one sale, while wonderful, was more important because of the information gained.
After these two gallery shows I really felt I was done. I was done showing my work, and I was done trying to sell work. Famous last words…
Solving the Puzzle
Trying to sell photographs in a world that is oversaturated with images is a fool’s errand. I know this. Photographs, in and of them selves, have no value. There value is determined by so much beyond my control: reputation, education, contacts, timing, subject matter, etc… But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to solve this problem. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube that I enjoy turning over in my head.
A New Way Of Working
Last summer I took a workshop on combining photography with encaustic painting. This came about because of a random conversation with a fellow artist I haven’t seen since. I enjoyed the encaustic medium and I saw a lot of potential in the process. I immediately looked around for more learning opportunities. Fast forward to this year, I’ve taken more workshops, created more work, increased the scale and even traded a finished piece for a exceptionally cool bracelet made from LEGO tires.
If I haven’t been on social media much the last few months it’s not because I don’t love G+ and Instagram, it’s because I’ve been creating in my mad scientist lab of a workshop.
I’m telling all of this to you as a response to Jennifer’s earlier post: On Measuring Success. I’ve been Jennifer and in many ways, I’m still Jennifer. I take photos for me. I judge my success by how much they please me. But I also like to share them and, for what its worth, I want to sell them. I’m way too pragmatic to create art for the sake of creating art. I need there to be a flow, a movement outward. If for no other reason so I don’t have a garage filled with unwanted art.
This past weekend I started from ground zero; I participated in the very first Galaxaar put on by a good friend of toy photography, Chris Pirillo. Galaxaar is a place for creative’s and toy collectors alike to gather and sell their items to the general public and to each other. If you live in the United States, you probably have something similar in your city. The final results of my Sunday spent in beautiful Issaquah, WA were a decidedly mixed bag. I sold absolutely nothing, but I gathered a lot of information.
There is absolutely no substitute to talking to a lot of people, preferably strangers, to get an idea if what you’re doing has potential. Also talking to other vendors is invaluable. I learned there is a local vendor Facebook group I could join to get information on other shows in the area. It turns out there are many themed and / or geek oriented shows in my area!
Each conversation I had was an opportunity to see my work through someone else’s eyes. When you’re thinking about selling your work, this kind of information gathering is well worth the time and money expended. I met a lot of fabulous people, I have a better idea what the market for this work might eventually be and I received some suggestions I’m looking forward to implementing. I also bought the absolutely coolest toy for the San Francisco toy meet-up white elephant gift exchange. Score!
The Next Step
I now have thirteen items on my to-do list that are a direct result from talking to people at Emerald City Comicon, Bricks Cascade and Galaxaar. Some of these are pushing along existing projects, some are keeping previous connections active, some could eventually lead to a sale. ALL of them require a lot of work.
I have a framed quotation next to my desk that I look at everyday. It says:
The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.
Right now, I see a lot of hustle in my future.
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