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How do I get my photography seen in the art world?


At some point in our photographic lives, we likely consider exhibiting in the art world in some way. I’ve tried and continue to try different things in this realm so I thought I’d share some of my own experiences and insights.

As not to repeat myself in each category below, I’ll say it here once. Do your homework. Research costs, rules, procedures and how each particular option works. 

Art fairs

art world art fair booth set up

I won’t go into this too much as it’s been covered here before. Art fairs are a great introduction to trying to sell your work. While some fairs are more arts and crafts, there are plenty out there that focus strictly on the art only. Those are the art fairs that would be more valuable as the attendees are more likely to be art collectors.

They are a lot of work and a pretty big commitment if you really want them to work for you. It takes time to build relationships year after year as people start recognizing you and your work. 

Galleries

art world get your work out there
A local Chicago gallery where my work was displayed and sold.

Getting your work into physical galleries can be done in different ways. 

You can go in person to local galleries, the old-fashioned way. Take your portfolio, meet with the gallery owner and talk about you and your work. Get to know them and their gallery, and make sure the work you do will be a good fit for what they already have displayed.

art world framed art in gallery lauri novak
A gallery in Minneapolis which I submitted to via an online call for art. My image is the Light Circles on the right.

Submitting via online calls for art to physical galleries can be done as well. While some galleries require you to ship framed and ready-to-hang pieces, others will do the printing for you, usually charging a small fee. Note also that many of these types of calls for art will include a fee, just to submit your work, and it’s usually nonrefundable.

Art agencies and interior design firms

We’ve all walked down the hallway of a hotel and thought as we looked at the art on the walls, “my work could be hanging here.” How do I go about that? From the architectural firm to interior designers for commercial projects, at any one point in the process, they’ll be looking for artwork for their project. Many of these companies look to art agencies and design firms to help them with that process.

This is a long game if you want to get in it. Think about how clients are all different and constantly changing, so what you have to offer might not actually fit into the aesthetic they are working on during a certain project. But, three projects later (which could be a year or more down the road) and your work is the perfect fit. It takes time and consistency to keep your work in front of those who offer ideas and artwork solutions.

Personally, I send a monthly document with new images to designers and art agencies. I did my research, found contact information where I could and created a database of designers and agencies. Keeping your work and your name in front of them is important.

Specialized art brokers

framed images in a gallery setting

Another interesting option is companies that operate a bit like an art broker. They help in interior design in some cases but are strictly providers of art. Some of them are strictly working with commercial projects while others also lease or sell to the general public.

This can be a bit of a hands-off option if you don’t want to get overly involved in working with companies or projects directly. Upload your artwork to the site and they cull through files to look for whatever they need for a current project. You can also be more proactive with some of these sites and let them know if you’re traveling in case one of their clients may be looking for something location specific.

Pay for play in the art world

arctic ice abstract framed in conference room

I’ve seen this a bit more lately, but maybe it’s because I’m just more aware of it. There are certain websites and publications that will publish your work, for a fee. Is it worth it? Is there a return on your investment with this? Maybe. You have to find the right publication or site. How do you do that? Research. Contact them directly if you can and ask questions about who their buyers are, what type of art they buy and if they even sell much at all. 

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, if the publication gets sent out to a large audience and a good portion of that audience is the type to be interested in your work, it’s a good way to get your work out there en masse.

Worth repeating

Do your homework in each of these scenarios. There are so many factors that play into each of them. Research and find out as much as you can. I’ve even contacted other members of selling sites directly to ask them how the site has worked for them. 

You’ll also want to have some sort of plan or goal in place. What is the reason you want to exhibit and get your work out into the art world? 

This is a very brief overview of each option of getting your work out into the art world. There are so many options. Like anything, you have to put in the time and work to be successful at it.



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Rafael Jones

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