PHO704 Week 10: The Digital – New Possbilities

This week’s coursework about the different digital media channels has been difficult, largely because although I use some of them I have little to no experience of using all of them. In addition, discussions tend to become dominated by Instagram but that is not the only channel available and for some people it may not be an appropriate one.

There are two different subjects here. First, there are the new digital media platforms available to artists in order to offer a new and often mixed media experience. And second there are the new digital media channels available on which to market one’s work – not the same thing at all.

I am very interested in what Anna-Maria Pfab said in her lecture about new digital platforms, in particular the New York Times virtual reality app launched in 2015, NYT VR (New York Times 2020, Pfab 2020). Although an app demands a great deal of time and investment capital, it is clear that, first, one can offer viewers a new experience combining both images and sound in many different ways, and second one can engage with an audience on smartphones massively larger than the audience on conventional PCs or photography websites. I am already looking at sound in my research project. Video takes it one stage further.

As for marketing one’s work using digital media, my feeling is that before one embarks on a digital media strategy it is important to have a very clear idea of what one wants to do, having already identified ways of measuring results and overall having already set some goals. Otherwise, one is exposing oneself to one of the dangers of digital media: investing a lot of time in something that is essentially fruitless and which is simply not paying its way.

So over the next six or so months may own ‘strategy’, if such it is, is likely to be this:

Instagram: I will continue to use my main account (it is a business account) but tweak it to give a better idea of whom I am, what I get up to and what I enjoy. I will only post work I would be happy to show my peers (i.e. not family snaps) but the overall intent will be to be interesting, relaxed and creative. A good example of how to do this is Tom Hunter’s Instagram feed (Hunter 2020).

Facebook, Twitter, TikTok. Facebook is strictly for family use in my case. I won’t use Twitter because I have serious concerns about the platform’s sanity and ethics. TikTok is up and coming but I am the wrong generation for its demographic.

Websites: I will maintain and keep current and tidy my portfolio website. However, it is clear that the focus for photographers has shifted to Instagram. A portfolio website may be needed as a showcase but the action is now elsewhere.

An Experiment

I have registered a new domain name for a brand I am devising called White Bridge Arts. This is for avowedly commercial material, in colour, quite distinct from my fine arts practice. My aim is to open a webshop on an Etsy-like sales site where I will offer images printed on mugs, T-shirts, cushion covers, duvets and other household items, as well as prints. Since all printing is on-demand by the owners of the site, the initial investment required is minimal (though the site’s commission on sales is quite high).

I will use this as a testbed and learning experience, and simply for some fun. Marketing will all be done under the White Bridge Arts brand, so if I decide to promote the shop on Instagram or elsewhere then I will open a new account under the brand name and use it purely for business. After six months I will take stock.  One tool I will use is Google Trends (Google 2020). As a free tool, it can be a very helpful way of noticing what is catching the public eye and what is fading from it.

And overall? I think my approach overall is a fair reflection of who I am. I love fine arts photography. However, I can’t stand snobbery or in-group thinking and I have a strong commercial streak. I do not want to become stuck and stale by hiding away in a single field.

References

GOOGLE. 2020. ‘Google Trends’. Google Trends [online]. Available at: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

HUNTER, Tom. 2020. ‘Tom Hunter Photography’ [Instagram]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/tomhunterphotography/ [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

NEW YORK TIMES. 2020. ‘Immersive (AR/VR)’. New York Times [online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/spotlight/augmented-reality [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

PFAB, Anna-Maria. 2020. ‘Live Lecture’. Falmouth Flexible Photography [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/1eb7c4fd28e98bd83a3a838e6bdfca0cc920f49f-1606328806458/capture/ [accessed 27 Nov 2020].