The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to have Stella Kramer as juror for our upcoming landscape exhibition, Mainland. Stella is an award-winning photo editor as well as a consultant, curator, educator and all around mover and shaker and in the photography industry. I had the privilege of asking a few questions about her work and thoughts on the industry.
Your role in the photography world is diverse; from photo editor to educator to curator to consultant. What was your path to your current career? Did you ever consider yourself a maker of art?
My current career came about after many years of working as a photo editor in the publishing world (NY Times, People, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, etc.). The business was changing and no longer had a place for me.
I began crafting a new career that would include different aspects of the photography world (editing, curating, speaking, teaching, consulting, etc.) that I found challenging. I was looking for diversity so that I could do anything that interested me. Now I see many times more the photography then I saw when I worked for publications. I believe editing and sequencing to tell a story with photographs is an art, whether linear like documentary, or esoteric like fine art/fiction.
Tell us more about Stellazine. How did it start and what are its goals?
Stellazine is a place of freedom for me to comment on aspects of the world of photography, rail against things that piss me off, and showcase photographers doing work I like. I am a very opinionated person, so Stellazine allows me to speak out to a larger audience.
As a gallerist, I am a big fan of artists working with consultants before presenting a new body of work, but there are quite a few artists who do not yet fully understand the value of such assistance. What can an artist hope to gain from working with a consultant such as yourself that they would not be able to accomplish alone?
The best thing about working with a consultant is that they are going to be a completely impartial audience for your work. It’s so often difficult for photographers to separate themselves from their own work; they are too close to it to see it clearly.
My role as a consultant is to be the audience and offer clarity, guidance, critique, ideas and support. I am someone who can bring a lot of experience to help a photographer achieve what they want to achieve.
In your experience, what are some of the most common mistakes photographers make when presenting or sending out their work for review or consideration?
If you’re going to a portfolio review or meeting with a potential client (or collector, gallerist, etc.) you MUST be able to speak intelligently about your work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a question of a photographer only to have them tongue-tied or unable to speak. You have to have an understanding of what you are doing. And as elementary as that may sound, so many photographers don’t think about this. Presentation is important.
Another thing are photographers who ignore submission guidelines and just show up at a gallery wanting to show their work. That is a very bad move. Not respecting the person you want to have look at your work will guarantee they won’t….ever.
You should thank people who have taken the time to offer you advice, encouragement, ideas, money, etc. Thank you notes are still important.
Know who you want to contact and why. Massive emailing thinking the more you send the better chance someone will respond is wrong. If you understand yourself and your work, then you can tailor your approach so you have a better chance of showing the right person.
Don’t forget the value of cultivating relationships. That’s really what it’s all about.
Photographers often find themselves lumped into categories and trends. How do you respond to “trendy” work?
If the work is engaging, if it makes me think, or feel or question, then I don’t care whether it’s “trendy” or not. Besides, who decides that? Good work is good work, but like any art, it is subjective.
There are things that become boring after awhile, but I could say that about anything. No matter the subject, there are ways to reinvent things to make it completely new. That’s the challenge for the photographer. I call it creative problem solving.
How would you define success as an artist?
Success is something you decide for yourself. It may be money, it may be exposure, it may be simply having an outlet for creativity. It is not something one can give another. It is too personal.
The deadline to submit work for Mainland is November 19. Visit KiernanGallery.com for more information.