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gallery submissions

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How Not to Submit to a Gallery (part 2)

I tend to review gallery submissions in groups (read: either when I have a chunk of spare time to devote to it or when they have piled to a critical mass on my desk and can no longer be ignored).  Since I was taking a five hour flight to Oregon to lead a photographic retreat all about positioning yourself in the best way to get the most impactful exposure for your work, I figured it was a good time to dig in. I recently wrote this post on how to submit to a gallery (and how not to), so all of these do's and don'ts were already top of mind when I opened the first package.  Oh horror.  My biggest pet peeve - an unmarked disc in a cardboard mailer.  What was most striking though was that of all the submissions I reviewed on that flight, the one that was by far the least impressive in presentation (no note, no intro letter on paper or on the disc, a CV that looked and read like a student's, and just three jpegs with no explanation or artist statement) was from the most experienced person (a professor at an arts university).

Another person sent in a submission and apologized at the top of his CV for not having a gallery-worthy CV.  If you hear nothing else, hear this - it's all in the positioning.  First off, he had some solid exhibition experience.  Second, that is not the end-all, be-all.  If you are new to the game, spin that in your favor.  You are a new discovery!  Strong work, ripe for the picking!

Here is an example of how spin can be your best friend:

The other day I asked my son (he's eight years old) to feed the dogs.  He says, "but mom, I fed the dogs yesterday".  I say, "Jonah - I am giving you an exclusive opportunity to feed the dogs.  I haven't asked anyone else - just you.  Feeding the dogs is the most fun thing to do."  He says, "but I don't think feeding the dogs is very fun".  And I say, "Jonah, it's so fun.  I think you may be doing it wrong."  He says, "Ok, I'll try again".

There you have it folks.

But back to the first impression (no unmarked discs in cardboard mailers!!), here is a submission that impressed me before I even saw the work:

Great logo (that fits the character of the work), intro letter, awesome branded cd envelope, and a postcard with her signature image on it.  I had a solid vibe of the work and a great impression of her as a professional, committed artist before I even put the disc in my computer.  We have a call set up for next week.

And that's how to submit to a gallery!

Looking for help getting a submission packet together?  Read more here.

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How To Submit To A Gallery (or how not to. . .)

I often get asked how to submit work to a gallery in a way that will be effective (seen by the gallery owner or director) and how to follow-up without being pushy.  And a while back, I posted this picture on facebook as an example of how not to submit to a gallery.

Just a few days later, I received this submission, which made me long for the origami-style wrapping of the former.  The cd just rolled out of the envelope onto my desk.  I was concerned I may be getting punked with a computer virus.

So if these fall solidly into the category of how not to submit, what is going to make your submission stand out in a good way?

Think backwards.  What is the end result you are looking for?  You want the gallery to be impressed with your work and want to feature it in a show or better yet, represent you.  So let me ask you this – with all of the amazing photography out there, would a gallery want to work with someone who is professional, thoughtful and organized or someone who sharpies their name on a cd and throws it into a cardboard mailer?

I am looking for a great working relationship with my photographers.  I am also looking for people who live and breathe their work.  I want you to want it, and I want you to sell it to me.  That’s the only way I can sell you to someone else.

Be thoughtful.  Put together a package that will impress the gallery with its presentation as much as its content.  I would love to read a letter, see an artist statement and bio and possibly a small print before I ever put a disc into my computer.  This example below was fun (which fit the work) and didn’t include a disc, just a link to her website (which I went right to and even tweeted about that day).

As for follow-up, I think touching base a month later by email to see if the gallery has had a chance to review the work you sent is appropriate.  If you met with the gallery in person either at a portfolio review or in their physical space (always preferred, always more impactful and memorable), a hand-written thank you note right after the meeting is appreciated and shows you respect their time and insight.

After the initial contact, many photographers add me to their newsletter mailing list, which is a good way to keep people abreast of new things that are happening with your work.  One photographer I reviewed at a portfolio review a year and a half ago sends me a beautiful card with a small print inside (her latest, typically) every 4-6 months to touch base.  It is thoughtful, professional, and shows she is committed to her work.  And ultimately, I ended up working with her.  Now that’s how to submit to a gallery.

More:  How Not to Submit to a Gallery, Part 2

Looking for help getting a submission packet together?  Read more here.

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