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Monday, 23 June 2014


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"Have you ever exhibited your work "altruistically," i.e., not hoping for sales?"

Surely for photographers that's the purpose of the better photo sharing sites where you get honest appreciation and feedback? Or actually, ANY photo sharing website

I show at a local farmers' market. Interestingly, one of the benefits I've found is somewhat technical in nature: no one viewing my photographs ever gets out a magnifying glass to check for chromatic aberration or soft corners!

Knowing this lends a certain perspective when checking out the dpreview forums. It really is about the photograph.

For many years, I would hang work prints on the wall outside of my office. Nothing fancy -- I just tucked an edge under my name plate on the wall -- and changed them two, maybe three times a week. I never got a lot of feedback, though, except when I let one linger too long, then people would ask me when the next print would be going up. Also, when I was preparing for a show, I'd arrange a grouping of 25-30 prints on the large conference room table (and I do mean large, as the prints were 17x22 and there was room for many more!) and leave them up for a day so my coworkers could see them. Insofar as I could tell, they seemed to enjoy this, but again, they didn't provide me with very much feedback. I think that's just how these things go...

For those that do want to sell without a lot of website development overhead, check out easy.com. It's a marketplace for handcrafted objects which includes all forms of photography. It's also a community which is interested. Just a thought.

When I lived in the Reston Virginia area my wife and I were part of a group who exhibited our work in office spaces around the area. We would rotate around on a set schedule of 2 months. The group numbered about a dozen. It was very popular with local businesses and we called it "Art In Public Places". The art was for sale and there were some sales but mostly it served to both exhibit our work as well as make space at home for more...

Did it a coupla times in the pre-internet days, if ya go into it seriously not expecting anything other than a possible compliment or two- can't lose, except of course, the money for framing, matting, etc. And there is also the very real possibility that something can get damaged and/or stolen.

Depending on where you show, if you have more popular themes (idyllic landscapes, sunsets, etc) you may even score a sale. Good news, if ya really feel the need, you can probably find the place.

I have long found that shows I've had in museums or non-commercial galleries should be viewed as "altruism". I don't think my sales at any of them have ever covered the cost of framing, and all too often the sales have been close to zero.

YMMV, at least I hope so.

I've done better in juried shows where compared to the cost of entering the prize money and sales have well exceeded my costs.

"Have you ever exhibited your work "altruistically," i.e., not hoping for sales?"

Although "altruism" doesn't exactly describe my own motivations, yes. In fact I have never exhibited my photographs with sales as an objective.

In fact I'm doing so right now in a public show celebrating Millennium Park's (Chicago) 10th anniversary. Although I am offering modestly-priced commercial prints of the images in the show (as well as a few closely-relateds) I do not really expect to sell (m)any. I'm honored and perfectly content with having been chosen to be represented in this show with the likes of outstanding photographers like Terry Evans and three members of Hedrick-Blessing.

Visitors to some of my work in the current Millennium Park show

Having an opportunity to watch strangers take a moment to view and potentially become engaged with my photographs is more than adequate compensation for me, particularly when the underlying spirit is that of civic pride and promotion.

As an aside, I don't think that people who dream of becoming a superstar art photographer have any real idea what that entails. As with so many other endeavors, but most closely kindred to the world of entertainment, your entire life becomes run by what you produce. Relatively few people can endure such "success" for long.

I'm not sure "altruistic" would be the word I'd use, but most of my showings have been not for profit - except to the extent the personal side of my photography helped promote the commercial work back when I was doing it for a living. I do enjoy showing and meeting people, though, even if it's just on Facebook or a local art walk.

I understand your friend Ray. I don't think I'd want to be in the art or craft business. Doing it for money is not the same thing as doing it for love. A few people successfully mix the two, but not a great number. I have been on both sides, and I like the freedom. Even when I made my living at photography the kind of work that brought in the money was very different from what I did for myself. Some of the tools and techniques were the same, but the picture making was worlds apart.

Just now I'm looking at that decision again. My part-time retirement job is coming to an end just as my personal photography is finding an audience. I'm not sure I want to run a business again, but it's nice when people back their compliments with cash. Not sure which way I'll go.

It has always seemed to me that showing photographs to someone, somehow is an important part of the process. Whether it's through a print publication, a web site or blog, or a show somewhere, it's important to show the work. I'm always open to any opportunity to get my work seen. It's nice to get paid. It's nice to sell a print. But the important thing is to get the photos seen.

Photography is a way to communicate. You don't communicate unless someone is receiving the communication.

I 'show' in a different way. I've had books made of my images, three books with about 220 images, so far. More to come.

If you haven't seen the quality of the better on-line book publishers, you are missing something. Excellent printing on lay-flat pages of heavy, beautiful stock are delicious.

I find it fascinating watching people go through the books. Some just look, saying nothing until finished, sometimes little even then, although none have as yet expressed anything less than enjoyment. Others are quite interactive, saying what they like or don't, asking about and/or discussing the what, where, how, why of some images.

Viewers have ranged from family through friends, through participants in workshops we've attended. Many have said I should publish commercial versions, but as yet, that's sounded like more trouble than it's likely worth.

The oddest was when I was showing the family who run Grumpy's for Breakfast, our favorite restaurant on Mt. Desert Island, ME, an image taken there the year before. A woman at another table came over to look and ended up taking the book to go through.

Effusively enthusiastic, wanting to know where she could get a copy; she never did email me.

Add me to the list of those who like to show and experience reactions to their work, without making a business of it.


[Hi Moose, which online book publishers do you use? --Mike]

I don't know if this is what you have in mind, but I bet that a lot of readers exhibit their works online through personal websites or, if they don't want to learn to build websites, Flickr.

That's the only way I've shown my work since 2000, at college and university galleries and not offered for sale. The reasons are that it would have been a very poor source of income and would have complicated my tax returns. Too much hassle, too little return.

You could say that almost all online galleries are exhibited with little hope of sales. I know that's true of mine.

Yes I am one of those photographers, I have not tried to make a business out of photography since I left college to many years ago to count. I have occasionally displayed prints when invited to at small local events where there was no expectation of sales, merely an opportunity for feedback. The Internet has really changed things though. I have been sharing images on 500px for the last few years and found people I feel give honest feedback and when they are silent that means something too. Again no attempt to make sales, just a chance to share. I know how much work it takes to make money in a craft business and I am not willing to do it at this time so sharing is fine. 500px/TerryLetton
Also I have shared a few images with you when you have asked for them, does that count?

I once put up a show of prints laminated to construction paper against a bunch of buildings. I did it late at night and there was no mention of who made the pictures. One of the few people I told about it asked how long I would leave the stuff up. I told him it would be there as long as it was there. I think it lasted about a week. It was fun.

Two years ago I shot a number of portraits of local cyclists with their bikes, with the idea of doing some sort of public display. Two of the cyclists I photographed owned a building in town and encouraged me to build a mural to hang on it. I put up a small one, and they enthusiastically offered to sponsor the rest. Well received, it will be there till the weather does it in: 359 State St. Bicycle Portraits.

I've been photographing a group of people who put on electronic music parties for a number of years.

I didn't exactly plan it this way, but when I put together a book of my photos and sold it (at a slight loss -- so it was somewhat altruistic), it helped to show everyone that I was serious about my project and was treating everyone respectfully. One by one, each person who had previously asked me not to take photos of them came up to me and told me it was now okay if I did.

And the nicest thing someone said was "now I can talk about this stuff with my parents".

Yes, Mike, and it's called "sharing."
Over the last 50 years, I have given prints to many friends - both photos of them/us and other subjects they expresses a liking for.
I have been creating galleries of photos - many of my travels - online for 20 years, at first as I taught myself web programming. I have shared photos with travel companies for their websites, two rock bands and a bar in Rio among many others.
A few years ago, I started doing photo calendars for friends that they now start asking about every Fall and some ask for extras. I did books for both kids weddings. I have also done iBooks of photos for those with iPads.
I do it because I enjoy sharing and like the feedback.

I have been doing a few shows the last few years. The last couple were at a small museum in Brooklyn 
and in the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch 

I used to do a show at my small town public library once a year from when I was 12 to about 18 , mostly welded steel sculptures when I was 12 , and gradually switching over to photography when I was in high school. Every year they asked , and I figured I had to. I think I sold a welded chicken once, can't remember to who.

I had a lot of shows and installations in College and later in an MFA program. I was printing pretty large then, about 40x50 inches which was large at the in the late 70s early 80s. I had found a good deal on some 50" rolls of Portriga (I was really disappointed when I found tried to buy more and was told that "we just sold all of the over run from a special order to some art student and we're never getting it again"

Unless the work gets shown it's just some stuff in a closet and I can't even see it.

I did hang a 10 foot square print in our apartment when my wife was away for a day or two and I could move some furniture around. I told her it was a mothers day present.

I wouldn't call showing for no money altruism, more like megalomania probably.  I don't even think that the prints I donate really count as altruism.

But yeah, unless someone sees it it, it doesn't really count. That would be sort of like trying to tell yourself jokes.

Two names that should be mentioned here are that of Zoe Strauss and Blake Andrews. Zoe, perhaps the all time reigning monarch of free photo exhibits, held free shows under I-95 for ten years (you could walk home with a print for $5)- that only led to a (much well deserved) retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Talk about a nice compliment!


And Blake makes a habit of producing copious amounts of work prints and just leaving them about in nondescript, public places.

I put together a 20-page e-book that combines my passion for sky photography with my Christian faith. I thought about selling it through Amazon for the Kindle but decided instead to make it available for free for anyone who cares to download it. There's no sign-up, no need to give your email, just click to download.

It's available free, here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/about-jock-elliott

In just over a year, over 500 people have downloaded it, and I have received some kind and thoughtful comments.

I actually sold prints through a local art/photo store for a while, but oddly enough found it a bit tedious rather than gratifying. So when my medical practice moved to a new office two years ago, I stopped selling prints and instead used the new wall space as a kind of gallery for the most pleasant and soothing large photos I could print.
The effect has been really gratifying; many patients remark that it knocks down their anxiety about being in the office, and more than a few have brought their friends in to look at them. And I'm embarrassed to admit that when my wife and I mounted the prints in the waiting room, I had no idea they would be such a perfect color match for the wallpaper. Better to be lucky than good.

Every once in a while I get motivated to show (now is one of those periods) it's never about trying to sell although sometimes I get lucky.

Far be it from me to tell anyone what to do but.....If you have never exhibited your work you have missed out on one of core experiences for an artist; letting the public see and comment on your work.

"my sister-in-law Basia"

Is she Czech?

[First generation Polish-American. --Mike]

I'm guessing the link should be etsy.

PS: also very curious to know the book printers mentioned (enigmatically) in one of the comments.

Hi, Mike.
Basia the singer?
This just popped out at me. I hadn't thought about her in a while. Used to like her. Might still. Heading to iTunes shortly to see (hear) her recent work.

[No, Basia the sister-in-law. (It's a common nickname for Barbara.) But she's a star in our family. [g] --Mike]

I get about 6-8 unsolicited requests to buy my photographs each year. I do not exhibit anywhere so people must just find them online. I dislike it as I hate dealing with printing, shipping, collecting the money, etc. So mostly I ignore them.

I was proud to have a photo (near-macro of a grasshopper eating a bright red mushroom) chosen for a display at my favorite natural park. All of the photos of this group show were taken in Missouri, many at that particular park. It is good to show visitors the less obvious beauty of forest undergrowth. Maybe someone is looking to see what lives in the leaf litter, and for sure some people now know that grasshoppers eat more things than just grass.

"PS: also very curious to know the book printers mentioned (enigmatically) in one of the comments."

Referring to my post? I didn't name names because things change and I haven't researched alternatives for quite a while.

When I last looked, it seemed that My Publisher, inkjet, and Adorama, Fuji Crystal Acrhive, looked the best from a distance.

I got sucked in by special offers from My Publisher. I like the way their printing comes out. If you look closely at undifferentiated areas like sky, you can see the inkjet dither pattern, but at normal book viewing distance it's invisible. They have both glossy and a semi-matte finish. I very slightly prefer the matte-ish one. The heavier paper choice is a sensual experience to turn.

I've never had a negative comment from anyone who has seen them about book/print/color quality.

I can't speak much to their book making software. In an early version, I had trouble getting portrait images to just fill the height of the page, but it's several versions later now.

I make up my own pages at their full resolution, 1200x1600, and drop them into the software, which works perfectly for me.

The down side is their high-low pricing strategy. They are forever sending email special offers, which can end up way lower than their 'regular' prices.

For someone like me, who buys a copy or two occasionally, and not in a rush, that's a minor annoyance.


I haven't been involved in shows since college, that I can remember. The shows in highschool (that I organized) and college (that I exhibited in) weren't set up to sell, though. The major college one was associated with the launch of a photo book, which was for sale, though.

I keep thinking I should find more ways to show prints, if only getting a bigger portfolio case and carrying it around. Oh, and a new printer, since the old R800 is officially pushing up daisies. So not right away.

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