Are Art Galleries Really Worth it for Photographers Anymore?

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I’m writing this article partially because someone asked me about how to get your work into a gallery. But I’m also writing it because I’m honestly not even sure that galleries are worth it anymore. Are they cool? Sure! When we’re all vaccinated against the pandemic, and we go back to a semblance of what the world was before, that might change. However, I think that the way the public views photography isn’t necessarily as art anymore. At least, traditional capturing isn’t really necessarily art. There’s too low of a barrier of entry for lots of folks.

Let’s think about this. Why do you go to an art gallery? Typically you go to be inspired and to get creative juices going. Or you go to take in the culture of some sort. But lots of people don’t really stand around and take the art in. They sit there and browse through stuff. The exception is if they have a special assignment in school or if there is an artist that they’re really interested in. But go to the photography section of most galleries and museums and most folks don’t really pay much attention. 

To get people to truly pay attention to your work, you have to be different. Printing on different mediums, combining the work with other art forms, etc. can work. Ever seen images printed as a jigsaw puzzle? Those are really cool! I’m not talking about printing on metal or something else. I’m talking about finding a way to truly get someone’s attention. And by doing that, you’re not going to get into the bigger galleries to start. 

So what do I recommend you do? Well, there’s a big emphasis on the DIY world once again. The world is still suffering from an economic recession. That’s because of the pandemic. We’re all scared. Getting people to view your work digitally is cool. But if you’re getting people into a specially designated area, then start of doing it yourself. First, pick a spot that’s pretty easy to work with and get to. It could be a restaurant, a cafe, etc. In fact, that’s what I’d recommend. Tell the owners that you’re going to bring in more foot traffic and you’ll convince people to buy drinks or food. Then use their space to get the work out there.

But as you’re doing this, think about the #1 part of all DIY projects. This is about symbiotic relationships. You have to treat the company or person you’re working with like a business partner. You want them to know that you’re in this for the long haul. So settle into it. And treat them as such. 

Next, put together all the important stuff. We’ve got a call on our website that tells you how to get your work featured. This is the kind of stuff that some gallery owners and curators care about. Some only care about your social media numbers. Others are more interested in sales. But you have to sell yourself. Answer the question why someone would care to work with you.

Then, go ahead and promote it. Have the list of people you want to invite set up beforehand. Specifically, reach out to people who would probably spread the word or give coverage. That’s a variety of folks. Bloggers, reporters, Instagrammers, etc. From there, you can show bigger galleries that you’ve done some of your own curating, organizing, etc. Plus, people actually end up coming to your show. Once you get that set up, they’ll probably want to work with you. At least you’ll have a better chance.

But are they worth it for photographers? These days, I think that’s only the case for specially curated projects, creative work (not a documentary unless it’s a long term project), and alternative printing methods. Otherwise, interactive photography projects can also be cool. This is a long answer to saying that I truly don’t know. There’s a lot that’s involved with working with a gallery. And if you can make it work, then go for it. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.