Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Modern Artist

I know a number of truly talented photographers who have been spiraling into a "Bermuda Triangle of Despair" lately because they have been having problems getting work during The Great Recession.

In any other century or even decade, producing the work they are producing, they would have become household names by now.  They would certainly not have to be hounding clients for payment or struggling to decide which bills to selectively pay that month in order to stay afloat.  Exhibitions would have been had.  Tearsheets would be piling up. Advertising jobs would be rolling in.  Their photographs would not just be known, they would be objects of desire.

But, we're past that.  We've evolved past those decades.  (For better...or for worse.)

Illustration by Sarina Finkelstein

In 2010, it isn't enough anymore just to produce great art.  You have to promote it.

And, while it's not the fun part of the job (of course we'd all love to be shooting 24/7), it's a necessary evil.  In the new Book of [Photo Job] Genesis, one job will only begat another job if you're doing twice the work you were before – shooting AND publicizing.

So, what does that mean?

That means you should be:

Shooting your work.
Updating your website/portfolio with that new work.
Updating your blog (yes, you should have one) with tearsheets.

Sending that work to existing and prospective clients (via email, promo card, hard portfolio, weblinks, iPad, etc.) to use as stock, to pitch as a story and to try and get future jobs.
Making sure that the work you send establishes your unique identity, doesn't make you look like one of a million photographers who shoots children, weddings, seascapes, etc....
Following up with those clients to see that they opened it, saw it and get their opinions (via meetings and phone calls).
If they don't like it, what don't they like?  Tune your work to match their needs. 
Can you shoot a sample of something for them as a test?

Sending your work to places that can get you publicity:
Photo magazines
Photo blogs
Photo competitions (especially the kind with many different jurors from around the industry)

Updating potential and existing clients with your whereabouts and availability, in case a job comes up in a place where you might be traveling.

Connecting to others online via weblinks and social networks to drive traffic to your website, etc. etc. etc.

Inviting others to your events – all of them, even if they happen to be on the other side of the country.  Prove that you not only exist but are known, popular and wanted.

This is just a start.  Beyond this, you should strive to be a known face and presence at industry events.  You should be handing out your card and web address to every person within arm's reach, shaking hands, kissing babies.

You should be manic.  You should be exhausted.  You should be working.  You should be promoting.

For you are a Modern Artist.  For better, or for worse.

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