Category Archives: Art Fairs & Events

Giving Back

Peoria Help Portrait Team (2011)

Peoria Help Portrait Team (2011)

A few years ago, Nashville photographer, Jeremy Cowart, decided to use his craft to change the world, one family at a time. He started the Help Portrait project, an annual event that brings photographers, makeup artists, stylists, and retouchers together to offer families who wouldn’t normally be able to afford a professional family portrait with one for the holidays.

Since the launch of Help Portrait, I’ve been fascinated with the project and had it in mind to start an event here in the central Illinois area. Little did I know that the project had already reached Peoria. I was approached to join the project and donate my talents for the day. Spearheaded by Jeff Woods of PortraitLife, the event coincided with the Dream Center of Peoria’s annual holiday meal and gift-giving event, Smile.Eat.Receive.

I know it’s been said many times before by Help Portrait participants all over, but I was totally blown away when I walked in. With almost thirty different photographers, retouchers, and runners, we were able to shoot, retouch, print, and frame enough photos for almost 300 people. We had six different “bays,” each with a different background and lighting setup, and the teams were able to accommodate families of all sizes, big and small.

For my small part, I was in the mood to lend my retouching skills this time around. With my Wacom tablet and laptop fired up, the images started rolling in. I don’t think my hands and eyes moved faster than they did yesterday morning. Before I knew it, I had to head out to some prior commitments; I guess time flies when you’re having fun or, in this case, helping out someone other than yourself. My last count was 26 retouched images in two hours. If only I could be that motivated during my client edits…

Anyway, a special thank you to Jeff and the Dream Center folks plus all the photographer and retoucher friends I worked with yesterday. For those photographers considering participating in this national event, I highly urge you to do offer up the day; you won’t regret it.

Observations

It seems like I’ve had it in my mind for a long time to write this post and I apologize in advance if I offend anyone by my observations here, but they are just that, observations. Earlier this year, I took it upon myself to dive headfirst into the “deep end” of photography, fine art, and I’ve been very happy with the results so far. I’ve made into my first couple juried shows, been featured in a few galleries, and gained some name recognition, even if it is on a local scale. Hey… you got to start somewhere.

With these things going on around me, I’ve noticed a few things about how the average person treats digital photography in the realm of fine art. Now, let me just say that these thoughts are my own and I’ve based them on things I’ve seen personally; I do not aim to judge or to condone, but rather to explore why this is the way it is.

Observation #1: People are more likely to buy art if they can interact with it.

What do I mean by interact? To be frank, I’m talking about jewelry, sculpture, and pottery. At most of the markets and fairs I’ve attended, I noticed that any item that has a purpose beyond just being pleasing to the eye such as jewelry (you wear it), sculpture (you can touch it) and pottery/ceramics (you can usually eat out of it or put things inside it) was more prone to being purchased. And I can see how that is.

But beyond that, I also noticed some interesting ways of using this observation for marketing an art form. At one art fair I attended, I saw a musician selling CD’s. Rather than just setting them out for sale, he actually played his guitar along with a small stereo and featured tracks from the albums. Again, the public watched in awe and purchased his music by the hundreds.

As for photography, unless an image resonates on an emotional level with someone, whether through aesthetics or personal connection, it is often overlooked. Unfortunately, you just hang a print on the wall and hopefully look at it from time to time, but you can’t touch, wear it, or put things inside it. This challenges me to offer a different sort of “interaction” with my images and I have a few ideas in store for the coming year.

Observation #2: The more “mainstream” a photograph is, the higher the chance it will sell.

As I look at my sales numbers from the year, I noticed that it was more of the cliché images I shot that sold more. Images like cats, dogs, sunsets, and iconic landmarks were more likely to leave my booth than the more artistic urban and rural landscapes. With that in mind, I’ve started keeping an amount of “mainstream” shots in stock and then I smile on the inside when someone grabs something “off the trail,” so to speak.

Observation #3: Digital photography is often overlooked as fine art.

Woah, Mike… you can’t go saying things like that in public much less on the interwebs! Well, yes I can. I’m not saying the digital photography is not fine art; I am saying that it is often overlooked as fine art. Unlike most other art forms, photography, especially in the digital age, has become so prevalent that the average person overlooks it as a true form of art. With the invention of the camera phone and the affordable, easy-to-use image editors in the world, digital photography moved out of the studio and into the pockets of almost every person on Earth.

Don’t get me wrong; I love that digital photography is all around and that we are creating new, exciting tools to help us build the craft, but it seems to give the average person with a reason to walk right by a photographer’s booth. They might stop in, take a look, and say “that’s nice,” but I can tell who really connects with what I shoot and who doesn’t. To be honest, I don’t mind. In the words of Miranda Lambert, it takes “all kinds of kinds” to make the world go round.

Notice that I said digital photography is overlooked as fine art and not photography in general? Running hand in hand with the first observation I made above, the average person looks at pottery, sculpture, glass-blowing, painting and, yes, film photography, to name a few, as truly being fine art because they are unable to afford or understand how to work in that particular medium themselves.

While I definitely don’t want to get into the film vs. digital discussion in this post, I will say that the public perceives film photography as being more difficult to master because the average person doesn’t have a darkroom in their basement. What they do have is a camera on their phone or in their back pocket and a computer on a desk at home with access to the Internet; in the digital age, that is all you really need to take a photograph. However, taking a photograph and creating fine art with photography isn’t always the same.

And, with that, I’m going to leave it right there. I could dive in further to what it takes to make a great photograph, why great photography is or isn’t harder than film to master in the digital age, and more, but those are thoughts and topics for another time.

So what are your thoughts?

Shows, Galleries, & Events… Oh My!

Exhibit A Gallery

Exhibit A Gallery Wall

Exhibit A Gallery Wall

With the summer art fair season wrapping up quickly over the past month or so, I’ve been busy looking at alternatives to presenting my fine art images to the local market. I’m happy to report that I’m putting together enough galleries and showings over the winter months to keep this fine art ball rolling.

I’m especially happy to announce that thanks to the generosity of Barb at Exhibit A Gallery here in Peoria, I have my first real gallery space. Okay… it’s not so much a space as it is a wall, but I’ll take what I can get. As you can see from the image, I’ve got a number of framed pieces available for purchase so head on out to Junction City in northern Peoria to browse around Exhibit A. Even if you aren’t a fan of my images, Barb keeps a whole collection of local art of all shapes, sizes, and styles.

You know what’s even better? This Friday, November 4th is the 6th Annual Junction City Holiday Open House/Boardwalk. It’s a perfect time to see all of the fun things that Junction City has to offer including the local arts at Exhibit A Gallery!

While you’re out at Junction City, stop by Three Paths Massage Therapy, located in the small building to the south of the main complex, and visit my awesome massage therapist, Jenna. She was also kind enough to let me drop my collection of matted 4″ by 6″ prints off at her business for sale. These make for excellent holiday gifts so make sure to check it out!

Studios on Sheridan – Grand Opening

Also on Friday, November 4th, I’ll be stationed at the brand new artist studios and gallery on Sheridan Road, the Studios on Sheridan! I took a tour of this place last week and I’m so excited to see this empty space becoming a real working artist studio and gallery. Come on out and help us break in this new space and get some holiday shopping done while you’re at it as well!

Peoria Art Guild 8×8 Show

Another exciting event, on Friday, November 11th from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. is the Peoria Art Guild’s Annual 8×8 Show. I’m so excited to be a part of this awesome event and have been for the past three years. Not only does the money go toward charity, but the event is so unique, anyone will tell you it’s one not to miss!

Every piece is only 8 inches by 8 inches, but in a wide range of mediums. For those pieces who haven’t been bought via the “reserve price” listed, an auctioneer starts the bidding off on ALL PIECES at the same price. Every few minutes, the price drops. Whoever grabs the piece off the wall first at the price level receives that piece for that price. When the prices get to $100 or less, it becomes a madhouse!

Special Deal

If you attend any of the events in this post and email me a snapshot from that event, I’ll email you back a special discount code for my print shop for 25% off your order!

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