The thought of writing an artist statement can turn the stomach of even the most accomplished photographer. We are visual artists after all. We express ourselves in images, not words.
There is often a lot of griping that occurs when the topic of artist statements comes up. Many people (although in my experience, these people are the artists tasked with creating the statements) feel the work should speak for itself, and that statements are unnecessary and meaningless. Although I’ll concede that not every gallery and collector is concerned about a well-formed artist statement, there are a lot of benefits to having a concise, compelling description of your work.
Nearly as difficult as writing about your work is speaking about your work. The process of writing a statement allows an artist to get the swirl of elusive ideas and concepts that make sense in their own head out and organized in a concrete, meaningful way. We all know what we are trying to say with our images, but many of us have a very difficult time communicating those thoughts to others.
As I discussed in the Portfolio Review PDF (available here), preparing your pitch is critical to presenting your work to a potential gallerist, curator or collector. Writing your artist statement can both assist you with this and can act as your agent if you are unable to make a face-to-face connection with the person viewing your work.
Being able to confidently and succinctly speak about your work is no easy feat, but it is as important as having strong images. As a gallerist, if you cannot sell yourself and your work to me, how am I going to sell it to a collector? I want to feel your passion and hear your thoughtfulness. I want to be moved.
Practice as much as you possibly can, and then practice more. Speak out loud about your work – to yourself, to your peers, to anyone who will listen. This cannot be stressed enough. You must be comfortable talking about your work, and you must be able to explain it in a compelling way.
For most people, their photography is such a close part of their hearts and minds, it is incredibly difficult to step back and explain it to fresh eyes. It is also deeply personal, and just showing the images can make a photographer feel vulnerable and exposed. But you have to be able to sell it. Practice. It is the only way.
Looking for help with your artist statement? Read more here.