PHO705 Week 4: Output and Audience

Writing up my Final Major Project ProposaI for Entropias has made me think more carefully about how I could publish my project and connect with an audience. At the moment I am thinking of these:

Photobook
A photobook, perhaps 10” x 8” or so in portrait format. The staff of Self Publish, Be Happy said at a workshop last year that a regular size in portrait format is a good and popular one, easy to sell and not too costly to produce (Self Publish, Be Happy 2020). They considered it superior to a landscape-format book. Looking at the lists of companies like Hoxton Mini-Press or Setanta, I agree.

A likely printer is ExWhyZed. I had not heard of them until the estimable Sean Tucker said that ExWhyZed are the printer he uses (Tucker 2021). Certainly their website and other work seem pretty good. I will need to research this complex field properly but I can put ExWhyZed towards the top of a provisional list.

Cost is a dominant factor here, and as former career book publisher I know than ‘vanity publishing’ is a huge trap and one to be very careful of. I do not want to go there and suspect that if the whole thing becomes a cash-fuelled ego-trip then the quality of the final book will suffer a lot. I am thinking of only a very short initial print run, although I should be able to place a few copies in local bookshops such as Blackwells in Oxford.

A Video
YouTube/Vimeo: video- and sound-scapes overlaid with still images. I am attracted to this format because it takes still images into a more fluid audio-visual and experimental field. It is also a way of avoiding the traditional static website whose day is waning, I suspect. The action now is on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and others. The idea is not mine but comes from an essay by Grant Scott, ‘What is the Future for the Photographic Exhibition?’ (Scott 2020). The pandemic has made people start to think far beyond simply replicating a formal gallery show as a static gallery on a website. Instead, why not turn the experience into a film?

The reach of sites like YouTube and Instagram is truly vast, so with careful marketing it is possible that a ‘show’ on these platforms will attract more visitors than a static website could manage.

A Website with an Online Gallery
This is the traditional default option. I don’t think this format is particularly interesting or original but it is likely necessary as a project anchor. Other formats can refer back to the website which can provide contact details, an artist’s statement, online sales, a fuller portfolio and so on. A website, if well made, is a way of demonstrating professionalism and bona fides. The trick is to structure it so that it looks fresh and interesting but does not require frequent updating (updates being on one’s image stream on Instagram and other platforms).

A Conventional Gallery Exhibition
This would be lovely but for now this is more likely in 2022 than in 2021. I suspect the pandemic will have to be well and truly over for a full range of venues to unlock and visitors to start appearing.

There is a fairly difficult cost factor here, at least for me. Venues in Oxford are few and normally costly, long a bugbear for all local photographers, and quality prints and frames are costly too. It is possible that a joint exhibition will be more feasible. Again, I am just not very interested in an ego-trip and I am sceptical of the cost-benefit effect of a solo exhibition.

Oxfordshire Artweeks 2021
I can show my work in progress during Oxfordshire Artweeks in May 2021, albeit the festival this year is online. For several years now I have done this jointly with the local cooperative I belong to, Oxford Photographers. In 2022 we will very probably be able to return to a proper venue and a much more ambitious exhibition.

Marketing Campaign
Easy to leave out but I think this part is very important. I need to list goals, appropriate media to approach (locally and nationally) and costs, and then form a plan of action and budget in order to publicize my project. If left until the last minute the result would be haphazard and ineffective, so an early start is important. Besides, some media have long lead times.

A part of this will be entering my images in open calls, competitions and so forth. This will build confidence, put my project around a bit and generally establish myself. If I can say I have been doing this then I will look more credible to editors and commissioners.

Local Business
There is the possibility of persuading local businesses to offer my work (for example, Manor Farm at Hampton Gay and Willowbrook Farm run online shops and both are on my patch).

Social Media
I would use social media – Instagram, Facebook, Flickr – as a feeder and marketing tool for all of the above.

Cards, Gifts and Print Sales
I enjoy being openly commercial. I think it is an important discipline. I will look at photocards and similar gift items which could have a sale in local shops and in bookshops such as Blackwells in Oxford. I will also look at product applications such as printed cushion covers, T-shirts, mugs and so forth. Print sales can be offered from a website. One contender here is an online shop on Society6.

I would not do most of this under my own name but under the branding of White Bridge Arts (I have registered the domain name). I think it is perfectly possible to keep a more formal Fine Arts practice separate from a commercial one providing one keeps the ‘brands’ distinct and resists the temptation to mix things up.

References

SCOTT, Grant. 2020. ‘What Is the Future for the Photographic Exhibition?’ The United Nations of Photography [online]. Available at: https://unitednationsofphotography.com/2020/10/03/what-is-the-future-for-the-photographic-exhibition/ [accessed 14 Nov 2020].

SELF PUBLISH, BE HAPPY. 2020. ‘Education – SPBH Editions’. Self Publish, Be Happy [online]. Available at: https://shop.selfpublishbehappy.com/collections/education [accessed 4 Dec 2020].

TUCKER, Sean. 2021. ‘How I Self-Publish My Photography Zines/Books (Printing, Selling, Sequencing and Design)’. YouTube video [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDV5QjbDuNA [accessed 17 Jan 2021].