As you have heard me say many times, for me photography is all about the print. I love making prints and I love sharing my work through open houses at our gallery and at other events. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Unlike New York and other larger cities, Indianapolis has been a bit slow to appreciate and cultivate an art scene.
This has changed a lot over the last few years, with a number of art-centric locations opening up, and as a result, interest in collecting art and photography has grown. In a recent article, I shared a video tour of my gallery space. It’s a fun place to visit as it’s like visiting a workshop. This is a place where I not only show my work but also produce it.
I use a hanging frame system that I have manufactured. I can switch images out quickly and easily, which assures that I always have fresh work on display. Many times I sell right off the wall, roll the print up, and the customer goes home with it that day.
Most of our activity takes place on First Fridays and at open houses. The Stutz, where I have my gallery and offices, is an old automotive factory that has been converted to artists’ studios and offices for startups. It’s a great place to work and has its own high-energy vibe. We have big old freight elevators and giant windows and skylights. There is a car collection room, too.
On the first Friday night of each month, artists around Indianapolis open their studios to the public. These First Fridays are really popular, and the studios see a lot of traffic from the public. Many studios have refreshments and even entertainment. It’s amazing how many people come by and enjoy being out for an evening looking at art.
During the year the First Fridays and open houses get me noticed. Our April open house will see thousands going through our space. It runs for a Friday night and all afternoon on Saturday, kicking off the race season four weeks prior to the Indianapolis 500. We get so busy during the first night and Saturday afternoon and sell so many prints that I usually have to print all night long to replace the ones I’ve sold. It’s a lot of fun, and after the weekend is over we are quite exhausted.
The open house is a good chance for the public to see the kind of work I do. Not only do I have big prints on the wall, but we also have a slideshow playing on the big-screen TV in our space. We have hundreds of my most popular images made up in 11×17 and 13×19 sizes ready to sell. We also have two digital frames hanging on the wall that cycle through images every minute. You literally can’t walk in the gallery at some points during this open house because there are so many guests that we fill to capacity.
These open houses always produce a few good leads that are interested in decorating their homes or offices with photographs. After the event, we follow up with these folks. We invite them to come back into the gallery. We sit down, share a glass of wine, discuss their needs, and then we look for the right print for the space as well as environment.
Once the customer makes their choice we invite them back to be part of the printing process. This gets them involved in making the prints they are purchasing. I open the file on the computer while they watch and show them how the whole process is done. They are issued white gloves to handle the prints, and they watch the process as well as the final inspection. Of course, we share wine, and while the print is printing I share a number of my other favorite images and the stories that go work them. This, in turn, allows them to share their experience with friends as well as to feel like a part of the image that now hangs in their home or office. The final step is to sign the print in front of them. It’s a great Instagram moment, too!
Getting Your Work in a Gallery
As photographers, we tend to be better artists than businesspeople. Sometimes you don’t need to be the best photographer as much as you need to be a good marketer and salesperson.
I have taken all my images that are keepers and have made portfolio files of them. These are imported into iPhoto on my Mac. They are then synced through iCloud and made available on my iPad and phone.
I use my iPad for everything. It is always with me. I have access to all my records on it with either Evernote or Dropbox. This is a great system, to always have your images with you. I wrote an article about this about a year ago. Currently, I can access 75,000 images and 500 videos on my iPad.
How I Got My First Gallery Show
About 6 years ago on a First Friday, I visited the most prestigious gallery in the Indianapolis area: Evan Lurie Gallery. This is a large gallery commanding high prices and an “A” list of clients from all over the US. While at the show I introduced myself to Evan Lurie and asked if he ever accepted photography to show. At first he kind of gave me a brush-off, but I persisted. I learned he heard this all the time and that most of the photography he saw was not up to his gallery’s standards. Once he took a look at a few of my images he was hooked, and we spent a bit of time discussing what I have photographed and how it could fit into his gallery.
Coming from the Glengarry Glen Ross school of sales and a firm believer in ABC, Always Be Closing, I asked Evan if he could take two minutes for a quick look at my work. Two minutes is all it took to get an invite to show my work.
If it wasn’t for my iPad and portfolio I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. When I left the gallery that night I selected some of the images he showed interest in, and when I got to my car I wrote an email and attached these images. I let him know what a pleasure it was to meet him and that I would be really excited to show my work at his gallery. The deal was sealed.
A few months later I had my first show there, and it was quite successful. He and I have maintained a friendship all these years later.
At the end of June this year, I received a call from his gallery manager, Susan Brewer, inviting me to show my work again as part of The Artists of Indianapolis show. “Wow, that would be a real honor!” I responded. I met with Susan, the curator of this particular show, and we decided that they wanted to have large prints. After looking over my work she decided she wanted my work to be focused on ice and then to feature three smaller images from my Being Square – Seeing Double project. Over the next two weeks, I made the prints and worked with a framer to prepare the images for the show.
The framer I use is a perfectionist, and he did a superb job in a tight timeframe. He helped me select the proper moldings and mats to make my images stand out. I’ll give him a plug here, Petrov Frame & Restoring, just in case you are from the Indy area and need a good framer.
A few days before the show I delivered the prints to the gallery, and they were very happy. I have stopped in on a few occasions, and tonight when I was there I was surprised at the number of people visiting. I had the chance to talk to a few people that were spending time looking at my photographs.
I love watching how people look at the images from a few feet away and creep forward to examine the details. I call this immersive imaging. I know I have captured a good photo when I see people bending over looking at the birds, melting ice, and textures in the image.
I love sharing my work, and doing so in a quality way is one of the biggest reasons why I love photography so much. I am always looking for an opportunity to show my work, and Evan Lurie Gallery has been one of the best places where I live to do that. If you have some fine photography and want to see it displayed in a gallery, then you need to sell yourself and your work to the gallery owner. Have confidence in your work and especially yourself. Send emails with your work attached every week and work really hard to get a sit-down meeting with the gallery owner. Sometimes it takes a while, as many shows are planned well in advance, but once you have your foot in the door you can do well.
One last thing is you can start small. Coffee shops, doctors’ offices, furniture stores, banks, and professional offices are all good places to try and place your work. You’d be surprised at how easy that might be. After you have your work in a few places you can then rotate the images around to the locations you show your work in so the display always looks fresh.
You’ll gain a lot of satisfaction showing your work, and hopefully, you’ll make a bit of money from print sales so you can share your photographs in more locations.