Photographers and Artist’s Statements

Intro by Skip Cohen
I’m teaching two classes at ShutterFest this week and talking about mistakes people make with their “About” page is going to be discussed. I’m betting that 90% of you have missed an incredible opportunity to connect with your clients by building trust rather than your resume!

Your customers don’t care about how you got started, what gear you shoot with or what awards you’ve won. Unless it’s a Pulitzer, they don’t know who or what organizations like PPA or WPPI are. They don’t care about your hobbies or whether your married, single or have a family.

What they do care about is whether or not you can be trusted to capture the kind of images they want. They care about WHY you’re a photographer, not what you use, who you are or where came from. That doesn’t mean you can’t weave some of the key points of your journey as an artist into your bio – just stop sharing information they don’t care about.

Stop writing in the third person too! Write your “About” page from the heart in the first person. Share the story of what you love about imaging and why your clients trust you to capture the kinds of images they cherish. And, when you’re all done, sign your bio with a facsimile of your signature – like an artist’s statement.

It’s the perfect time of year to share a post of Scott Bourne’s out of the archives. After all, it’s Marketing Monday, and your “About” tab is the second most valuable piece of real estate on your site, the first being your galleries!

by Scott Bourne

                                                            “  YOU are not your photography.”  Dane Sanders

So tell us something about what it’s like for you to make a photo. Share your heart. That’s how you write an artist’s statement.

Rather than give you a checklist of what to include in your statement, I’m simply going to show you mine. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do this. I think you just have to write from your heart or be inspired by someone or something else who shares your vision. I re-wrote my statement a few years ago when some comments I received on my images helped me to see what others were seeing in my work, but which I lacked the proper mirror to see. Here’s my artist’s statement.

A pelican caught in the tragedy of the BP oil spill. “I speak for the creatures which have no voice.”
Copyright Scott Bourne. All rights reserved.

For me, wildlife art photography is about two connecting themes: extraordinary craftsmanship in terms of technical mastery of photography and a fundamental understanding of the dynamics of the nature behind the image.

At a deeper level, however, I pursue this art form because of its almost religious qualities.

One day, I can have a vision in my mind that represents a photograph I want to make. This vision exists only in my head and my heart – it’s a silent vision which has the power to bring me out into the field, month after month, year after year, for a chance to turn that vision into something tangible that I can share with others.

The other religious aspect of my work is focus and devotion to an idea over which I have absolutely no control.

I learn all that I can about the natural factors behind each photographic opportunity, but I never know how they will play out. My artistry focuses on the beauty of things which are random. Wildlife operates within its own free will. The bird flies its own path.

It’s different than working in a photography studio where I have control over the set, the model and the lights. As a wildlife artist, my gift is to know how to “show up prepared” to interact with beauty that I do not control. I must learn to be at peace with my subject on their terms, not on mine.

I struggle with finding the patience and the path. But when that struggle becomes the hardest, I remember my calling. I speak for the creatures which have no voice. Perhaps this is why the experience is so emotional for me.

Each time I get a perfect moment and capture that with my camera, I experience joy and sadness. I am joyful because the finished work provides me with a lifelong memory of a successful vision. But I also feel sadness that the pursuit is over.

After that moment, the cycle begins again, and I launch the pursuit of the next creative vision. I hope to share that vision well enough that others may someday wish to help speak for the animals too.


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