A few months ago I wrote a post called “You Never Know... (part 1)” which discussed the value of getting your work out there regardless of how small or minor the exhibition/publication/review might be because, well, you never know who will see that work and what may come of it. In this post I would like to take the “You Never Know” series in a different direction. While it is true that you cannot predict who will look at your work and what doors an exhibition might open, it is equally true that you never know what opportunities you might miss out on. The art world is a touchy place. There are a lot of egos, a lot of possibilities, and a lot varying opinions on both art and etiquette, and I would like to write a bit about being kind to our fellow artists, gallerists, and enthusiasts.
- Every great creative person had help getting to where they are now. No one was born great. The important thing to remember is that when they were inexperienced and unknown, they did not know where help might come from. Mentors, patrons, future clients, and bosses can come from the most unexpected corners of life. Because of this, do not dismiss anyone. Aspiring students, amateur retirees, professional photographers, and chatty enthusiasts are all worthy of our respect and attention. Not only is this good manners, but it is impossible to predict which one of these people could present you with your first big break, your next big paycheck, or valuable insight into life and art.
- There are no shortcuts. You will not get your solo exhibition in MoMA by mailing them a DVD of your work. Success comes from the strength of your work, to be sure, but it also comes from having the right people see it. Credibility as an artist, and as a good artist, comes from people seeing your name show up multiple times in the art world. There are people out there looking for the next big thing. If you are going to be that next big thing, having your name appear in multiple places will make you much easier to find.
- Galleries and clients value professionalism as much as talent. It is important to respect the time and other obligations of institutions or clients you are working with. This means being responsive. Whether you are shooting a fashion spread for Vogue or a family portrait, your client wants you to stick to your deadlines. It is important not to neglect projects that you may think are less important. Paying bills and responding to emails promptly shows others that you are a reliable partner. In an industry that relies heavily on word of mouth, your professionalism will go a long way in helping you reach your goals.
- Not everyone is going to like your work. Getting rejected sometimes is part of the game. This does not mean that your work is bad or that you are a poor photographer. It’s not personal. Everyone brings their own tastes to the viewing experience. If you don’t dust yourself off and try again, then you may be missing out on the next event where you will get selected. The process of getting rejected may also help you reflect on your work, making it stronger and more concise for when you enter the fray once more.