A Guest Post by Chris Folsom.
Recent talks with a local shop have prompted one of my least favorite tasks… writing an artist’s statement. It is an incredibly difficult task to describe your own work without sounding arrogant or self-absorbed. Worse yet, if your images span a variety of subjects and styles (as mine often to), trying to sum up the collection in a paragraph or two may seem impossible.
Here are some tips I go by when writing an artist statement for a shop or gallery that will be displaying my work:
1. Start with the basics
Jot down some basic information about the photos included in this collection. Are they color? Do they have a common theme? Were they all taken in a similar location? Having a short list of details will help later when you are trying to tie everything together.
2. Try not to get too technical
Nobody reading the statement will care if you shot with a Canon 5D or if Photoshop is your post-processing software of choice. If there are some truly unique elements involved in the work (printed on a special material or you shot through a hand-crafted lens, for example), feel free to include that information. Otherwise, leave out the details about your gear.
3. What would you like someone else to say of this work?
This is possibly the best way to get to the heart of why you took these photos. If you would love for someone to say “these photos bring sunshine to my home”, then you already have a pretty good starting point for your statement. Lead off with something like “I have done my job as an artist if these photos bring happiness and warmth to your home”.
4. Share your background and history
All too often, artist’s statements are all about the art and don’t go into any detail about the artist. How long have you been doing this kind of art? Why did you start? Why do you enjoy it?
5. Try not to pat yourself on the back too much
It is fine to say you are proud of this body of work, but try not to go overboard with the self praise. I have seen statements that say things like “an expert of her craft, this photographer captures beauty in a way that nobody else has”. I understand the value of confidence and selling yourself, but these kinds of descriptions will be a turnoff to a lot of people.
6. Does it have to be a traditional artist’s statement?
A friend once suggested that I do a haiku for my statement, which I thought was a genius idea. Different venues will have their own requirements, but take the opportunity to do something out of the norm if you can.
And if you would like an example of an Artist’s Statement, this is the one I went with for that local shop:
If these photos have a mission, it is this: capture rarely viewed scenes and environments and present them in an interesting way.
It may be a lonesome tree on an isolated hill or the dark interior of an abandoned building. Whatever the locale, on the best of days these images will stir up unexpected feelings and thoughts in the viewer.
Studio Tempura is based out of Baltimore, MD and has been creating photographs for over a decade.