Mounting your own Photography Art Exhibition


Photography: Jeremy Mason McGraw

When we got in touch with Jeremy Mason McGraw, we wanted to know how he managed to break into one of photography’s toughest niches: travel photography. What we didn’t expect was a second lesson in becoming an art photographer.

Although Jeremy makes his living traveling around the world and shooting luxury hotels for their promotional material, like many photographers he also wanted to exhibit and sell prints. When approaching galleries didn’t bring results, he stopped thinking like a photographer and started thinking like an entrepreneur.

He did it himself.

A friend donated space in her house, and Jeremy printed the images he wanted to show and arranged the lighting. So far, so simple. The really clever stuff came in the marketing and the cost-cutting.

Getting a Little Help from Some Friends
That started with the frames. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars framing his photos in the hope that someone would buy them — and being stuck with a pile of expensive frames if they didn’t sell — Jeremy asked a friend who owns a local framing store to lend a hand.

While Jeremy got to exhibit his work in the best way possible and at minimal cost, the framer was able to showcase his own work in front of a targeted audience of art lovers — exactly the sort of people likely to come to him for their own framing.

The joint ventures spread further. Another friend agreed to send invitations to people on her League of Theaters mailing list — a case of one part of the art world helping another part. Other friends sent invitations to their business clients — a freebie that looks like an exclusive gift that rewards customer loyalty.

And of course, Jeremy sent out email invitations to people who had registered on his website.

“We gave out around 300 physical invitations and lots of evites,” Jeremy told us.

The show worked. Jeremy was invited to exhibit at a number of other art shows, has also received invitations from two real galleries and is looking forward to making his mark in the art world.

“It is a major ambition of mine to build a much larger market for my artistic work over the coming years,” he explains.

Creating joint ventures with friends is always a good move when it comes to marketing, whether that’s an exhibition, a photography book or even just your photography services. But there were a few more things that Jeremy could have done to promote his show.

Flickr as Exhibition Marketing Tool
While Evite is certainly useful, for example, Jeremy could also have used his Flickr stream to create a following on the Flickrverse. Flickr members can be a pretty close bunch and knowing that another photographer in their area was putting on a show would be likely to have brought plenty of them out to have a look. Even if none of them bought — and there’s always a chance that some of them would — buyers and other gallery owners are more likely to be impressed by a full room than an empty one.

Facebook can do the same thing. Again, it’s a public forum that lets people make contact with others who have similar interests and who are local too. Load up on photography-loving contacts near you, and when you put on your own exhibition and announce it on the site, you’ll have a valuable contact list ready to bring people in.

Of course, it’s always possible to combine all of these strategies into one big joint venture. In addition to showing his work in a friend’s house, Jeremy also hangs his photographs of Italy in a friend’s Italian restaurant. While that’s always going to be easier to arrange if you happen to know the owner, there’s nothing to stop any photographer from taking his or her portfolio around local cafes and offering them as free temporary wall decorations.

The opening of the exhibition would bring the café owner new potential customers, the café’s own mailing list would bring you potential buyers, and as the show continued, the stream of diners and drinkers would increase the chances that your images would be sold.

The bottom line is becoming an art photographer doesn’t have to be a dream. Jeremy has already shown that if you’re prepared to put in the effort yourself, the only thing standing between you and your first show is some smart marketing and a little help from your friends.

[tags] art photographer, art photography, art exhibition [/tags]

3 comments for this post.

  1. Richard X. Thripp Said:

    Great advice here. I prefer getting my work out on my own site than Facebook or Flickr, because then it's branded, it belongs to me, and I can make money from selling ad space.

    Love the partnership between the frame maker and the photographer; quite an idea. I'll have to try one of these exhibitions some time.

  2. Nick Gregan Said:

    Great advice, I'm jut in the planning stage of my first exhibition and so far it's a minefield, how to find a suitable space, how to cost it, should I do a book to go with it are just a few of the questions I am asking myself.
    You've given me a few thoughts for different directions to go in. Many thanks.

  3. David Said:

    Great post. I did consider opening a frame-making business and I think there are a few franchise opportunities to do that as well. Social media like Facebook I think is really good for photographers who would like to promote themselves. Thank for sharing

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